Strategic Gaps

Strategic gap analysis questions if the brand should change or adopt another more appropriate brand positioning and identity in order to be successful in facing competing brands, and addressing future consumer trends and innovation.

These gaps can be closed using strategies as seen from the diagram below.

The 1st strategic gap we identified is an overly product-focused brand promise. While we found that The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf has high brand recognition and recall, our research indicated that CBTL scored extremely low in terms of brand loyalty. CBTL is comparable to Starbucks in terms of all product related attributes and points of parity with their premium quality coffee, good service and Caring Cup initiatives. However it can afford to be better. The one thing that CBTL starkly stood out for compared to Starbucks was their brand promise. While Starbucks markets itself for the “lifestyle” that they create with their coffee, CBTL’s brand promise is solely based on their premium quality products. We feel that this overly product focused brand promise is a gap that makes CBTL a lagging brand behind Starbucks instead of a leading brand despite its rich 50 year heritage. This is one strategic gap our team will strive to close up because we believe this is a key reason why CBTL has not reached its full potential. Considering the rapidly expanding coffee and tea drinking culture in Singapore, especially with the proliferation of boutique coffee and tea joints that pride themselves on their own unique brand experience, CBTL badly needs a realignment of their brand promise to keep up with the industry trends.

Our suggestion…

In that effect, we suggest, not a complete change in their brand promise, but instead a refinement of their brand mantra to that similar to their strongest competitor, Starbucks, where instead of exclusively focusing on their product, CBTL should sell themselves with a purpose, a lofty ideal of some sort, where everybody, not only coffee or tea drinkers can identify with.


The 2nd strategic gap that Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf has is the mismatch between capturing the trend of innovation and brand heritage. Coffee Bean’s newly introduced CBTL machines and capsule packaging sold in its stores have a modern design and feel to it, in comparison to their store’s interior design or products (such as its organic coffee beans as shown in picture) which seem to have an old-school and “heritage” feel. These different touch-points do not convey a coherent set of feelings or associations for consumers, and creates a gap in how consumers view Coffee Bean’s brand identity.

Our suggestions…

To close the gap, our group feels that Coffee Bean can still capitalize on the trend of Single Serve Espresso Machines to tap into the opportunity of this growing market, but it should fine-tune the machine and the way it is sold to align it with their strong brand “heritage”. Since many beverage machines in the industry look “modern, they could change the colours, design and overall “feel” of the machine to give it a vintage/heritage look that is in line with their brown interior and products’ feel.

Coffee Bean can also change the way they sell the machines by creating a new in-store experience for customers rather than just displaying their merchandise at the counter. Instead, they can utilize the machines to create an innovative touch-point with the consumers. For example, they could display how the machine works, actually use the machine themselves, or even give customers their own capsule to try the machine (after purchasing from them). Or, they could portray their brand heritage through the merchandise counter by displaying their organic tea leafs / coffee beans (or what makes their coffee and tea so special) for people to feel and sample. This way, Coffee Bean can capture the trend of innovation, and yet still engage its customers in line with creating a brand experience in line with their brand heritage.


The 3rd strategic gap is in Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf’s brand experience. For a café serving gourmet drinks to do well, we feel that there are several important aspects that need to be met for customers to want to go back to the café time after time. One of the most important aspects would be the overall brand experience, comprising of topnotch customer service, a sterling in-store layout, good ambience and lastly an inviting store front to make a positive first impression.

Thus, with all these in mind, we decided to do an observation study on The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and its competitors, Starbucks and Spinelli on one Saturday afternoon to rate them on these four aspects: Customer Service, In-Store layout, Atmosphere and lastly Store front. We chose the locations in 313 Somerset, ION Orchard, Great World City and Orchard Centre.

Customer Service

In-Store Layout


Store Front

Overall, we feel that Coffee Bean emphasizes less on the customer experience as compared to Starbucks. While the staff at Starbucks were chattier and seemed keen on promoting their latest merchandise or promotions, the staff at Coffee Bean seemed less inclined to do so. However, the staffs at both cafes were relatively sincere and nice. We found out that there was a common problem among all three cafes – the lack of initiative by the staff to clear tables to make space for new customers. This might turn away potential customers.

Our suggestions…

To complement its already dim lighting in outlets, Coffee Bean could play up on its decorations to emphasize on its rich heritage, such as putting more vintage paintings and having a dimmer setting so as to allow for a cozier and more comfortable feel. It can also consider having vinyl records for all its outlets, playing up on its rich heritage.

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf could also afford more sofas for customers, rather than have too many wooden chairs that may seem uncomfortable and uninviting for them. Their square tables can be retained as square tables make it easier and more spacious for customers to have meals and food, which Coffee Bean offers.

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf could hire or train its employees in developing conversations with customers to have the “Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf” experience. This could build up potential individual customer relationships with the brand. By making customers feel appreciated and welcomed, Coffee Bean can build up a higher loyal customer base. It should also look into changing the merchandise counter and the way its products are sold as elaborated above.


With the majority of our research respondents not associating Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf with anything other than their quality coffee and tea, and stating that CBTL needs a revamp of their brand image, our group’s opinion is that Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf does not have points of differences strong enough to distinguish itself as a strong brand identity or a point of difference in the eyes of the consumer.

Our suggestion…

Our solution to this would be to leverage upon its current distinguishable elements of the brand by aligning it with a new brand purpose and promise and come up with new elements that would greater reinforce its brand purpose.


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