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The positioning for Philz Coffee is all about hand-made, gourmet, and custom. The Philz site says, “If you are serious about coffee, we recommend you immediately fly down to Philz Coffee and try a cup of one of the 20 handmade coffees that are on the menu or get some Philz coffee shipped over to you. … Ask Phil how many times people have come directly from the airport just to taste his coffee.” OK, but there are only seven retail locations for Philz— compared to 17,000 for Starbucks—so if you want to try Philz at one of their coffeehouses, you really have to make an effort. Let’s see if consumers think it’s worth it.

About Philz Coffee

Founded in 2003 by Phil Jaber, Philz Coffee has developed a devoted following. All the blends available at Philz are the result of 25 years of coffee alchemy and invention. Philz was voted “Best Coffee in San Francisco” by SFWeekly. The company sells coffee online and has seven retail locations in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Positive Themes

“Coffee blends” is the biggest positive for Philz, which covers “iced coffee,” “Tesora blends,” Turkish Coffee,” and many other popular Philz blends.

  • i’ve been longing to yelp a 5 star coffee joint. This is it. Philz Coffee is so legit. I had their Tseora and it became my instant favorite. I am a big coffee drinker so I know a little bit about coffee. (source)
  • RT@ttorres My half-caff iced coffee from @Philz_Coffee is perfect. Icing a hot drink is a fine-art & Rick at the PA store has mastered it. (source)
  • Love it. Super friendly service.  Ok not the original – though I do love the very first Philz.. Philz coffee zee best! My favorite after trying several different grounds has got to be the Philtered Soul – black. (source)

Consumers find Philz to be “great tasting.”

  • Without wanting to over-hype it @Philz_Coffee might be the greatest coffee I’ve ever tasted. Crushed mint! (source)
  • Umm, because Philz coffee is the best coffee in the world!!…and super strong too. (source)

The personal service at Philz is often mentioned as a plus.

  • Philz Coffee on #Yelp: The coffee is great (hot OR iced). The service is friendly (they remember who you are, what y… (source)
  • I like philz. It gives me a good vibe and the people are wonderful, And of course the coffee is flaw less. i only have one have one complaint… there ordering system. you order one place, walk across the cafe to pay and then wait in a jumble of people for your coffee, which takes a while! also, it is hard to figure out when it is your turn to order, for the lack of organized line! Philz, once you organize yourself you will be my favorite coffee spot! (source)

Negative Themes

We couldn’t find enough negatives to produce a valid theme chart, but here are the key themes and some representative sound bites.

“Not preferred taste” was the most common negative comment.

  • OK, Philz folks, get a grip: It’s not good coffee, roasted to death and back and flavored, the drinks are a gimmick, and their coffees are cut rate and not well sourced. On all three fronts, fail. Can we move on? (source)
  • Answer: Philz Coffee is too strong! Crashing like Hindenberg. (source)
  • My only major gripe is the lack of wifi. Outlets aplenty but no internet.  You would think that Guerilla Cafe, as a place that serves coffee, might just suffer a little bit since the new Philz opened next door. One thing that Philz lacks though is a good espresso, and this place delivers well enough. (source)

Some find it “expensive” and are overwhelmed by all the options.

  • Did I just spend $4 on a cup of coffee? I didn’t mean to! My boyfriend and I stopped by our first Philz this weekend and it was kind of a fail.I didn’t expect so many options and the menu overwhelmed me. So I just picked one randomly, Seven Stars. (source)

This comment points up the disadvantage mentioned in our intro, namely, that there are only a few Philz locations and that expanding brings its own set of problems.

  • I know a lot of people prefer Peet’s, but I don’t like their syrups. Philz is the best coffee I’ve had, hands down…even better than that stuff people are always bringing back from South America or Hawaii. Unfortunately, Philz only has so many locations and their quality will undoubtedly suffer as they start to expand. (source)

Insights

When consumers name other gourmet coffee brands and Philz in the same post, it’s most often to say that the other brands don’t measure up to Philz. The company says it believes in “first-class customer service” and consumers find that they’re true to their word. Similar to Peet’s, we couldn’t find enough negative sound bites to build a chart, which shows there just aren’t many people who have something bad to say about Philz. So their positioning at the high end of the gourmet coffee market is right where customers perceive them.

One dilemma for the company, highlighted in one of the sound bites, is that people wish Philz had more coffeehouses. The seven locations are popular and often crowded. On the Philz site, two new locations are listed as “coming soon,” so the company is trying to expand to meet demand.

Of course, as another poster points out, they risk being a victim of their own success as they expand if they can’t continue to provide the quality service people praise them for. In fact, more than one post points out a specific problem with the way consumers order, pay for, and wait for coffee. Apparently the flow of those operations within a store is a bit haphazard and consumers find it an inconvenience—not enough so that they aren’t coming to Philz, but enough so that they’re speaking up about it. This sounds like an issue Philz can fix by improving the layout of its stores and the way customers move through the steps of a transaction.

About Our Approach

This case study is a form of social media analysis called a netnography—a qualitative, interpretive research methodology that adapts the traditional, in-person ethnographic research techniques of anthropology to the study of online communities.

To write this netnography, NetBase analyzed thousands of posts from consumers about the brand. The posts are automatically sorted into Positive or Negative classifications by our natural language processing (NLP) engine, then we manually sample those posts.

To summarize a netnography as we’ve done here, we distill our findings into useful insights about how the brand we studied is positioned and perceived. We can provide our source data and confidence intervals for the percentages in the theme charts upon request.