Ugly Mug Gets 'Bedhead' Facelift

By Rosalind Guy

LET'S HAVE SOME FUN: Ugly Mug's new Web site reflects its recent rebranding effort. The effort's marketing materials are designed to reflect the light, fun and unpretentious nature of the company's owners, Tim Burleson and Mark Ottinger. -- Image Courtesy Of Ugly Mug Cofee Co.

Working with Indianapolis-based advertising agency Young & Laramore, Memphis-based Ugly Mug Coffee Co. has put on a new face, so to speak, with a new look for its products.

New packages come with taglines such as "We did our part. Now don't mess this up," "Don't be waiting for no apology. It ain't coming," and "Office coffee. The official coffee of purgatory." Each package also comes with a picture of a "bedhead," photos of people captured in their "ugliest pre-coffee moments."

Charlie Hooper, creative director at Young & Laramore, said the campaign attempts to make potential customers fall in love with the Ugly Mug brand and capture the spirit of the people who make it.

The locally owned, socially conscious coffee company sets itself apart from other coffee roasters by purchasing organic coffee beans from farmers at fair trade prices.

Organic coffee is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment, according to the Organic Trade Association based in Greenfield, Mass.

To be certified and sold as organic, the coffee must be produced in accordance with U.S. standards for organic production, such as the farmer having a sustainable crop rotation plan to prevent erosion, the depletion of soil nutrients and control pests properly. The product also must be certified by an agency accredited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In their own image

The Young & Laramore creative team also played up the whole Memphis-grown concept.

"We discussed the whole idea of Memphis-roasted and how to give it some meaning," Hooper said. "It was the other idea, other than just capturing the essence of the Ugly Mug spirit. Seems like it could potentially become more than just a personality thing, but maybe a movement."

Even if it doesn't become a movement, Hooper said adding "Memphis-roasted" to everything that has the Ugly Mug brand adds cache and that in the planning process, the branding team decided to put "Memphis-roasted" on as many things as they could.

The new design is similar to that of another beverage, VitaminWater. Much of the company's marketing was done with a similarly quirky and upbeat message printed on the side of bottles. Even without a national marketing campaign, VitaminWater managed to catch the eye of Atlanta-based soft drink giant Coca-Cola Co.

Coca-Cola bought the VitaminWater line from Whitestone, N.Y.-based Glaceau (also known as Energy Brands Inc.) for $4.2 billion in cash last year. And the first television ads began to run shortly after the purchase.

A commercial for the water even aired during the Super Bowl on Feb. 3.

"This is our chance with most people, to talk to people and really tell them who we are, give them a sense of who we are, what we're about visually and with the words we choose while they're standing right there in the aisle," Hooper said. "When I first saw the Vitamin Water, I did not have any prior convictions about it and I got all my opinions from the bottle; same with the Ugly Mug package. All of your opinions are likely to come from the package, whether you're in Memphis or someplace else."

A 'to-heck-with-it' aesthetic

Ugly Mug coffee is sold in more than 800 grocery stores throughout the United States.

The re-branding will help the coffee roaster expand distribution, the company's executives hope.

"As we look to expand our distribution and break through in a cluttered grocery category, we felt it was essential to re-examine our brand identity and all of our communications," said Tim Burleson, chief operating officer for Ugly Mug. "We're thrilled with our new look. Young & Laramore really captured the essence of the brand and expressed it in a way that will appeal to our target audience."

But just what is the essence of Ugly Mug Coffee that designers were seeking to capture? It's Ugly Mug's unpretentious approach to offering premium coffee, Hooper said.

"When you consider the world of premium coffee, there may be a taste of pretentiousness about it," he said. "But with Ugly Mug, it's like to heck with it, they're just there to do some great coffee and do some great work. And we really just love that aesthetic, and I really think the name itself really kind of reflects it to a degree.

"Everybody really just loves that name, no matter who you talk to. It's fun, it kind of sums up the parts they need to be proud of and doesn't worry about the rest."

As to how long it took to come up with the new look, Hooper said the entire process spanned several months.

"Sometimes when you're in advertising, someone will come to you and say, 'How long do you think it'll take you to do this ad?'" he said. "And the famous answer is, 'Well, probably about 10 minutes; I just don't know when that 10 minutes is going to come.'"

The re-branded products are expected to hit shelves in the very near future.