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The Bambinoccino

The Bambinoccino must be one of the best marketing concepts I've seen in a long time.

For those of you who don't know what a Bambinoccino is, it is essentially an espresso cup filled with cappuccino froth with a sprinkle of chocolate powder. Or, put another way, a cappuccino without any coffee. It's mostly air.

It is sold by Pizza Express as part of its kid's menu.*

Strategic insights

The success of the Bambinoccino rests on a few strategic insights:

  1. Product margins: I heard somewhere that coffee is one of the highest margin sales for restaurants because it is relatively cheap to make and serve. So you really want customers to buy one at the end of their meal.
  2. Target demographic: One of Pizza Express's core demographics is families with small children. Now, most often, when eating out with small children, after dinner coffees are sacrificed in order to make a quick getaway before the children, having finished their food, start to get bored. So the high-margin coffee sale is lost unless you can find something else to keep the children happy. But, when the Bambinoccino arrives at the end of your kids' meal, you may as well have a coffee yourself while you wait.
  3. Buyer values: There is nothing that small children enjoy more than pretending to be older. So enjoying a Bambinoccino at the end of their meal "just like mummy and daddy do" is a source of great pleasure. (The fact that theirs is missing the actual coffee is not an important detail.) And happy children make for happy parents. A free Bambinoccino keeps the children happy whilst their parents enjoy the high margin coffee - and would could be better for a small child than drinking an after dinner "coffee", just like their parents do!?
  4. Branding: They could have just called it "frothed milk". But that would have seemed 'odd'. Perhaps even a bit of a rip-off. Giving it a cute name helps maintain the illusion for the kids (it sounds like what the parents are drinking**) and is more likely to get the parents talking about it. Same product - different name makes all the difference.

Lessons for business strategists

  1. The small things matter. Strategy isn't just about the high-profile things. Of course, Pizza Express should be worrying about supply chain management, purchasing, staffing and training, restaurant locations, etc. And I am very sure that they are. The Bambinoccino is one of the those simple and cheap ideas which helps to maintain the integrity of the customer experience, and keeps people coming back. It requires no extra raw materials and no new equipment. They already have those for making cappuccinos. It is a (nearly free) by-product, put to good effect.
  2. Insights don't need to be complex or profound. None of the insights listed above are. It's more often the combination of insights than the individual insights themselves that make the difference.
  3. You can find a lesson about business strategy just about anywhere. Even in a cup of coffee at the end of a meal with your kids at Pizza Express. So keep your eyes peeled at all times and keep learning!

* Since writing this post, I believe a number of other chains have started to offer similar products.

** I've seen other brands call their product a babyccino. I am less convinced by that. How many small children want to be told that they are babies?

Addendum 2023

Apparently some coffee shops (e.g. Starbucks) are now selling puppuccinos - frothed milk or whipped cream for your dog!