Inside the Disruptive, Rule-Breaking Marketing of Dutch Bros.

Dutch Bros EmployeeI say that I am not a “chain guy.” When deciding on a restaurant I will try to choose a local restaurant over Chili’s or Applebee’s. Admittedly, I do slip and find myself in a Jimmy John’s or even the occasional Cracker Barrel for breakfast, because well, their awesomeness trumps. (They are also brands comfortable in their own skin, but that’s a topic for another day).

When it comes to coffee shops, I am especially local. I don’t have an anti-Starbucks mentality. In fact, I respect them as a company, but I try to go out of my way to find local coffee shops because I like the atmosphere.

Then there is Dutch Bros. Everything there is to love about coffee shops, they do the opposite, which is fascinating as a marketer.

They break all the rules and I am attracted to it like a bad boy to a water balloon.

And no, I’m not being paid for this. In fact, I am actually paying them $1.50 + tip daily.

How Does Dutch Bros. Break the Marketing Rules? 

It is Loud. Typical coffee shops are a place of peace, newspaper-reading quiet and library-like conversations. Dutch Bros. thumps. The sound track makes me envious. It’s a mix of trendy, hip-hop, rock and even classic Fleetwood Mac and ELO.

They Are Young. No one seems to be older than 25. Yes, they are millennials and they treat me like one of them.

There is No Uniform. The employees dress like the skate park hasn’t opened yet vs. a corporate “look.”

They Hustle. When the drive-through line gets four cars deep, it can be off-putting. That is, until someone pops out the back door and runs, yes, runs, to my car to get my order. What other company literally has its employees run to meet you? This isn’t an isolated incident. They do it every time.

They Are Friendly. Most coffee shops are friendly. Somehow they out-friendly everyone. I even watch how they interact with each other in what seems like a 6’x3′ space and they genuinely seem to enjoy each other’s company.

They Price Their Coffee Low. A small, black coffee is $1.50. It might be cheaper at McDonalds, but the same brand experience isn’t at McDonalds.

Dutch Bros Drive-ThroughIt is Drive-Through Only. Most of us envision a coffee shop in earth tone colors and a comfortable, warm setting that is designed to get you to stay. Drive-through isn’t new but Dutch Bros., but they are wired to get you to leave. Quickly.

Focus on Holland When we think about coffee countries, we usually think places Brazil or Columbia or even Parisian street cafes. But, Holland? Speed skating yes, coffee not as much.

What started out as a simple daily fix for coffee has turned into a great lesson on disruption and that not all marketing rules are meant to be followed.

P.S. This morning (10/27/14) they gave me a free coffee. I am quite sure that guy hadn’t read this blog yet!


Categories: Marketing

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131 replies

  1. My daughter works there and they truly treat their employees great! I love that they actually acknowledge that I am a person even though I’m not a teen or in my 20s (47). They smile and look alive. They want to please. They ask you if whatever you ordered is to your satisfaction. If the answer is “no”, you’ll get something new that is to your liking if it takes all day! I think they give their employees the experience a lot of us are looking for in our jobs–fast pace, high energy, honesty, true customer service, and good prices. I have never been “hustled” for a tip. After saying all of that, I only get iced tea when I’m there usually because I don’t like their coffee better than some of their competitors, but I do LOVE how they treat me! Thanks for doing what people like DB!

  2. Dutch Bros… No contest!
    Best coffee ever and in GP where it all started they have the most Beautiful women in the world working as the regional manager.
    That Krystal Jackson is one hot peice of #%*.
    I know from experience if you know what I mean.

    • You are an idiot to compliment an Executive then offend her and readers with your jock doing the talking. Just go sit in the corner and shut up. Better yet, go to Starbucks. You aren’t Dutch Bros material.

      • Ever thought that the commenter might be her significant other? Get over yourself.

      • I would hope that her significant other would have the DECENCY AND RESPECT to not say some shit like that on a random blog. You, sir, get over yourself. It was hugely disrespectful.

      • The 12th Street & Glendale Dutch is heavily staffed in the mornings and SHORT staffed in the evening

    • I loved their coffee the first several times i went would even sit through those hour long lines for the many charity drives they run, still like their coffee but find it very inconsistent have taken to ordering my large iced 911 extra sweet now to offset their shots, the only thing im not a fan of that dutch bros does is they actually chain pull all their shots into a plastic container and poor the shots from their into the drinks to keep up with the mass amount of people coming. I know some say that shots no longer expire blah blah but having worked at a coffee shop i can straight tell you shots that have been sitting are nasty i can taste the difference 10/10 times i typically only go to dutch now when they are dead peak times with shots sitting in a bucket of other shots is just not appealing to me but when its fresh its definitely a great experience! my only point i suppose is this they need some sort of service standards when they are crafting the beverages it really is inconsistent on many of the drinks there every day u get a slightly different version of the same drink sometimes not always for the better either.

      • This is not accurate. Having worked at Dutch Bros. a few years ago, I can tell you with 100% certainty that the plastic bin of shots is not supposed to be used in drinks for customers in the drive thru. It is a place where espresso shots go that don’t meet the criteria of quality to put in a beverage being made at the moment. (Took too long to pull, pulled too fast, sat too long or just doesn’t look right). The plastic bin is then added to a few other ingredients, as well as fresh shots, to make the freeze. So, using those shots in drinks is not Dutch Bros procedure, no matter how busy they get. Of course, you may have seen an employee do this, but that’s on the individual employee, not the company. 🙂

      • They’re not just crafting beverages. They’re crafting experience.

        Hypothetical interview question: Whats most important? Quality? Customer service? Or Speed?

        Whats answer would you give? Yeaaa thats right.

        At this point, they could serve me toilet water and I would still go back and wait in line.

        Why? Because

        1. I know they’d make it up to me somehow beyond the standard “free coffee”

        3. Just to say hi. Their vibe is contagious. I domt know what picks me up more, my 911 or thier genuine happiness. Ok… its them.

        3. Because customer service supercedes quality or speed. I can make my own coffee the way I like it, as fast as I want it. Knowing this, ill keep going back for more Dutch Bros.

      • No. They don’t pour shots from a pitcher. Those are for our freeze batches. Nice try though. (I am an employee there). We pull fresh shots every time and we were taught in training if it sits for longer than 20-30 seconds we can’t use the shot. Might want to give us another try. You’re missing out. Not us.

    • I like the Dutch bro coffee but for some reason I feel like I don’t belong there. It seems like coffee is only for men. They are very friendly people and the coffee that I buy from them is way better than Starbucks:)

  3. I love Dutch Bros, sometimes if I forget my wallet or if my card isn’t working they will just either give it to me for free or give me and I.O.U. and of course I always pay up next time I go!

    • Shout out to Eureka, CA Dutch Bros who stepped up when asked about a donation for St Bernard’s graduation 2015 Safe and Sober celebration. They showed up armed with enough supplies to make drinks for a small army and supplied FREE beverages throughout the event (who does that!!). As a mom/chaperone (yawn) I appreciated the assistance to stay awake! They also didn’t even put out a tip jar! Two thumbs up for what you do for the community as well.

  4. It’s great that everyone feels so respected and taken care of by the employees. Do we know that the farmers growing the beans are as well taken care of? Seems simple enough to me as a farmer here in California, support the community growing, support the community consuming.

  5. Is the name Dutch brothers or Dutch bros? I dont understand.

  6. i love dutch bros. their coffee always great..i like hot kickers with whip…and always so friendly. when you are new in town and don’t know a soul, its great to have someone look you in the eye and ask you what your plans are today. and everyone in there freakin looks and smiles. and the positive motto on their lids. all love.

  7. I prefer the Dutch at 12th Street & Glendale in Phoenix, Arizona. The gals & guys there are all HOT. They are nice, polite and treat customers like family.

  8. Actually one of the Hillsboro Oregon locations does have indoor seating along with a single window drive thru. They took over half of an local burger joint that didn’t make it. There’s only a few tables, but they do have a big garage door that they open on nice days and they move some of the tables outside to the sidewalk.

    Hell we even have a sonic that has a dine in option and a black rock coffee and human bean coffee, both known for drive thru only, to have a few indoor seating options….

    Personally I never sat in. I’d rather take my drink to go as I have more important things to do.

  9. First time I ever had Dutch Brothers was this Memorial Day weekend. My family who lives there turned me and my wife and son on to their stuff. I had a Rebel cherry blended. It was the bomb, all the way down to the ice! If I hit the lotto, I’d buy franchises and put them in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Las Cruces, New Mexico! Got to taste the cold coffee drinks too and they were delicious.

  10. Oh yeah, it was in Gilbert AZ, I think. The staff was friendly and helpful.

  11. I’m pretty sure it is spelled Colombia…

  12. I absolutely love Dutch Brothers. We have one at the North end of Loveland Colorado and I drive about 7 miles and pass three SB. I love that the,kids can be themselves and have a great time. If I am having a bad day I head to Dutch Brothers and they make me smile and laugh.

  13. I love their service and friendly mentality. Everything they do is awesome. The evidence that the marketing rule-breaking works, is that others are trying to copy certain aspects that work so well for DB. Lately I’ve been through Starbucks drive-through and they are trying to be a bit more upbeat, at least the individuals that I have come in contact with. The problem is that because they hadn’t previously been as welcoming as DB staff it seems forced and unnatural when they do attempt to ask what my plans for the day are. Overall DB’s business model and customer service are to be emulated not so much envied because even though it may seem unnatural for others to ask how you are doing it never hurts to ask. It only makes me remember them when I have a hankering for coffee and a smile.

  14. In my previous comment I forgot to mention that we also have several walk up Dutch Bros and not necessarily drive-thru only. I think that its a great idea and just adds, in my opinion, to their community feel.

  15. Actually DB has a walk-in at downtown salem oregon. It’s been their for a while. They even have packaged goodies that you can buy. I never seen the kind they have at any other coffee shops.

  16. I actually avoid going to Dutch Brothers because of the aggressive “friendliness”. I find the chatting up customers thing to be quite intrusive. A stranger is asking me…What are you doing today? Are you going to work? What do you do? What do you have planned for the weekend? ARE YOU SERIOUS?!? We are not friends! We have a transactional relationship… I give you money, you give me coffee. I don’t really want to be chatted up like that. Its sooooooooo weird. That’s the American culture though….superficiality at the extreme.


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