Don’t compete on taste. You will lose.

Alexander Novicov
8 min readFeb 21, 2024
Photo by Battlecreek Coffee Roasters on Unsplash

Imagine you have just discovered a brand new coffee brand. You fall in love with the taste, you love the packaging, and the whole thing about it is great. Then you decide to buy a box of coffee as a gift to your friend and tell him all about the coffee you just discovered.

A couple of days later your friend says he loved the coffee as well and he bought 12 boxes of the coffee brand you recommended. The thing is he didn’t just buy the coffee because of the taste, he bought it because you told him about the coffee with excitement, you had a certain energy and conviction when you explained to him why you loved the coffee.

There is a difference in tonality when you speak about something you love or care. Here are two examples:

  1. Try this coffee, it’s good.
  2. This is an amazing coffee because I love that they focus on XYZ (something you care about) and they do X (another rational thing you care about) and they are just a great company. Here’s a small gift.

We will be more inclined to buy the coffee when the presentation and the way it’s presented is different. That difference is the packaging and delivery. Hint: look for passion.

For someone to be excited about a coffee or a brand, he needs to find something that he loves about the brand beyond the taste. We can’t control people’s taste; it’s impossible. We can’t even control how people perceive certain things.

If Nespresso are looking to change George Clooney I’m open to a chat.

What we can do is influence how things are perceived. We can help people add meaning to the product or service they see by being intentional about our communication, design and packaging. All the above influences our subconscious mind.

The way we do that is by having the following five elements in our brand. I call these elements ORENDA. It’s the invisible power of brand purpose. Here are the key five elements:

  1. Great product
  2. Brand purpose
  3. Inspiring packaging
  4. Clear communication
  5. Creative content

All the above are very important elements but if one element is missing, it will not work.

The goal is to start with the product and make that the best it could be. What usually happens with small businesses is that they have a fantastic product, high quality, they care a lot about the product and customers, but they don’t invest in the other four elements. Or, they try to do the other elements themselves and unfortunately they don’t achieve ORENDA.

If one element is missing, customers are going to be switching from one company to another.

The goal as a small business is to spend less on CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost) and make our customers not only come back, but refer the company to their friends.

Huel Website

Here’s a perfect example: I used to be a loyal client at HUEL for around 5 years. Every single month I used to buy most of Huel’s products (powder, savory, protein powder and sometimes bars). I used to spend around £150 per month on it all. I even mentioned them in my book. But recently I stopped buying most of the stuff and I just spend £50 every 3 months with them. I used to wear their famous black Huel t-shirt. But I only use it for cleaning the house now. There are many reasons why, but I won’t go into all of them in this article.

HUEL Packaging

In January, my protein intake went through the roof as I’m training a lot and I need to hit 150 grams of protein every day. Huel’s protein powder is £45 for two bags — so it’s quite pricey if I need so much protein a day. I researched and found another vegan protein powder from Protein Works for £12.49! That’s a huge price difference.

My Protein Works Order History

Initially, I thought that the quality might not be the same, but I did my research and I asked my personal trainer Alex about his opinion. He told me that the quality is good and I bought a bag of protein powder.

I was skeptical about the taste and thought that it wouldn’t be as good. But I was so wrong. The taste is amazing! I loved it, and I have to say it’s even better than Huel. I think the price might have played a role as well. But no, on a serious note, the taste is really good.

Protein Works vs Huel

You see, I discovered Protein Works randomly on the internet and I knew the brand because I bought my glutamine from them. Their brand aesthetics is great, very clean.

Both brands, Huel & Protein Works have great websites and easy to use User Experience.

Huel “lost” me as a client because I wasn’t emotionally connected with them on a deeper level. I’m emotionally connected on a surface level but that’s it. They don’t have a brand story that really connects you on an emotional level. They don’t stand up for something that is beyond the product.

Does Protein Works? No, neither of the two brands have the five elements from ORENDA. So they will keep competing on taste and price unless they work on their brand purpose and other four elements.

This means every year they will have to pay more and more to acquire new clients.

They both have a great product, good packaging, and clear communication, but the other two elements are missing: brand purpose and creative content.

Protein Works won me (for now) as a client and I’ve bought more products now as I found vegan protein pancakes as well!

One of the things I noticed on the Protein Works packaging is that it said that ‘they have the best protein shakes on the planet” — which is the wrong message because they are making themselves the hero in their communication. I discussed in depth in my book why it’s important not to position yourself as the hero.

Another example are gels for endurance running. I used to buy from Brand A for all my gels as they seem like a great brand, fun brand, relevant with their newsletters and other stuff. But their gels have 30 grams of carbs. I found an alternative brand that has 60 grams of carbs and even better taste.

Brand A & Brand B — GELS

So now I’m buying from Brand B because of the taste and more grams of carbs.

Again Brand B won me as a client (for now) on taste and features — not because they have ORENDA in their brand.

Actually, I would say that Brand A has a much better user experience and a more relevant approach. Last week I tried to order gels for my race in Gran Canaria for this Friday from Brand B but the website made it hard for me to order and I got frustrated, so I ordered their products from Amazon. You know, user experience is much better and free reliable delivery the next day.

Again we can see how the above brands compete on taste, price and features basically. That’s the worst position to be in if we want to build a meaningful brand.

Microsoft or Samsung might have much more superior product in terms of features and foldable new phones, and I noticed recently an advert in Kings Cross about how you can circle something on your phone and the new Samsung Phone will tell you exactly what that building is. It’s a really great feature, I love the idea of it. But here’s the thing: I’m not changing to Samsung or Microsoft because my emotional connection to Apple goes on a much deeper level. They stand for something that is beyond their products and this connects loyal fans (not just clients) to their brand.

Samsung New Campaign in Kings Cross Station

It doesn’t really matter if we sell espresso, protein powder or gels. We all have the invisible power to communicate our purpose and add meaning to our brand.

Samsung Paid £830,000 for it’s latest campaign with TFL

The relationship with the espresso brand that I initially loved because of the taste faded out as the brand experience wasn’t really good, and after a year I received a newsletter from Nespresso. I decided to switch back to them because I missed their taste and on a conscious level I think it’s better quality and easier to order and track your account.

The friend that I recommended the coffee went back to ordering Nespresso as well, and his orders usually are triple than mine as he drinks 5 espressos a day and owns a small hotel — so his CLV (Customer Lifetime Value) is much higher than mine but he was influenced by a friend (me). Another reason is to never underestimate the power of word of mouth.

The reason why ORENDA has this invisible power is because we can’t see a lot of things, it happens on a subconscious level.

It’s the same as if we ask what time and date we fell in love with our partner — we don’t know, it’s impossible to say, but we all know that the feeling is there.

It’s the same with ORENDA — it’s there, it exists and brands that understand the power of this use it. We can see brands like Disney, Rituals, Apple, Nike and others are using it and that’s why they are increasing their market share day by day.

If you need help with finding and articulating your ORENDA, let’s have a chat and see if I can help you.

Every week I send a Thoughtful Thursday letter with ideas and insights on how we can live a more meaningful and purposeful life. You can sign up for free here.



Alexander Novicov

I wake up every day striving to become the best version of myself. I’m a human, an author, ultra runner, skydiver, speaker and CEO at Way Boutique Agency.