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Harris and Hoole - a storm in a coffee cup?

Once upon a time there was a newly expanding chain of coffee shops called Harris and Hoole.  Founded by three siblings in 2006 its whole brand is based on a personal passion for artisan coffee.

Aiming at yummy mummies their stripped wood floor and bare bricked décor offers wide spaces for buggies and - judging by Twitter comments - they serve a mean cup of coffee and provide a superb service.

So far so good but a right old to do came about last week when the Daily Mail revealed that it was 49% owned by Tesco.  This in fact was not an exclusive – the Guardian had talked about this last August,  but as the DM article was also picked up by Jeremy Vine’s Radio 2 show the whole thing turned into a right old furore.

It seems that people felt personally betrayed  that what they thought was a nice little local coffee shop owned by nice people was actually part of a global corporate.  They were affronted at the deception and said they would never go in there again.

Other more sanguine customers said they loved the coffee and the service and it didn’t make a jot of difference.

But there you go  that’s the power of branding – it does indeed invoke deeply emotive responses in people and that’s exactly why Tesco didn’t open Tesco Coffee  Shops –  which yummy mummies would go in there?

If you ask me it was a very clever move on the part of the founders to find alternative funding when the banks are not paying ball.  With Tesco’s backing they are able to bring their lovely coffee and service to more people and actually on their website they're quite overt about the part that Tesco plays .

Of course this is not the only instance of a large corporate pretending to be a friendly, cosy little company – Green and Blacks Organic Chocolate is owned by Cadbury’s – now Kraft and there are plenty of other examples.

Is this clever marketing or sinister globalisation at its most insidious – what do you think?

Thanks to Omar_MK on Flickr for the pic

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