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But first, Coffee. Maybe you’ve seen the phrase hanging above a picture in a coffee shop or cafe, or maybe you first saw the phrase on Instagram. Regardless of where you noticed it, those three words resonate with coffee drinkers around the globe — but it’s also the mantra that drives Josh Zad. Josh is the founder and CEO of Alfred Coffee, a coffee shop less focused on the actual coffee and more on the customer experience. Josh joined Marketing Trends to discuss everything from building and marketing the Alfred brand, to his new adventure with Calidad beer. Plus he talks about how to approach advertising investment and connecting with customers.

Key Takeaways:

  • Make it Pop!: Your brand is your image and it’s how your consumer connects with the product. Work hard to create something iconic and something that stands out on the shelf so that when the consumer sees the product, it’ll instantly resonate with them.
  • Invest Like the Best: Invest in advertising that fits your distribution needs and find channels that make sense for your brand. When it came to marketing Calidad beer, digital and social advertising didn’t make sense for the industry because there was no way to push consumers to an eCommerce store. Instead, the Calidad team bought physical billboards near locations where people could purchase the products.
  • Change Isn’t Always Good: When Josh was building Alfred coffee, he was constantly tinkering with the brand’s image, its colors, font, and website. When you change your imagery for the sake of change, you make it hard for your consumer to keep up. Find something that is powerful and resonates with your consumer and build off that.
  • Key Quotes:

“Some brands stand out via the name, some brands stand out via the logo. I decided early on, the first instinct before you have to read anything or look at a logo, is going to be color. So it was really important for me to identify a color that was the embodiment of our brand.”

“For us, it’s really about socially engaging customers and keeping a disciplined brand image that people can look to.”

“Swag is a huge emphasis for us. We don’t sell beer online, but we sell a ton of other amazing things that really share the lifestyle…That’s really how we connect with the customer.”

“At the end of the day, our main sale is an iced vanilla latte. So selling a bag of coffee is great, but we’re not an eCommerce business. We are a brick and mortar business. So we invest heavily in the cafes themselves, and the people that we employ.”

“[Alfred is] standardizing a little bit, but also not standardizing because it’s just fun to be crazy for each location and adapt to the neighborhood, but certain elements will carry through to all the locations.”


Josh Zad is the Founder & CEO of Alfred Inc, the parent company of cult-favorite hangouts Alfred Coffee & Kitchen (@alfred) and Alfred Tea Room (@alfredtea). He has his B.A. in Economics from Yale University and his M.B.A. from UCLA Anderson in Finance/Real Estate. 

After working in real estate development for 8+ years, Josh opened the first Alfred Coffee location  — regarded by many as the most Instagram-able coffee shop in the world with its trademarked moniker “But First, Coffee.” — in 2013 on quiet, tree-lined Melrose Place in West Hollywood. Today Alfred Coffee currently boasts six locations around Los Angeles and Alfred Tea Room currently has a flagship in Los Angeles and two outposts in Tokyo. With his knack for eye-catching design and innate understanding of customer wants, Zad has developed Alfred into the standard-bearer on how to successfully marry a brick and mortar offering with an enduring, memorable digital presence.  Now, in shifting gears full-time and creating Calidad, Zad is looking to do what he did with common, everyday beverages like coffee and tea but with a new product: BEER. Calidad addresses the market need for an uncomplicated and drinkable Mexican lager that is matched equally in its attention to design, brand story and consumer connection.

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