A Method to the Folly

A Method to the Folly

Folly Coffee founder Rob Bathe on running an irreverent coffee brand.

Rob Bathe founded Folly Coffee in 2018, determined to take the pretentiousness out of high-end coffee. That starts with the name, inspired by “Hill’s Folly,” which is how Minnesotans initially described James J. Hill’s plans to build the Stone Arch Bridge across the Mississippi in Minneapolis. The same sentiment carries through to packaging that feels approachable and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Irreverent as it may appear, every aspect of Folly’s bags of beans was carefully considered, from colors to wording. Bathe reveals the process of creating a brand that stands out on crowded shelves—at 70 grocery stores and cafés around the Twin Cities.

“We were trying to find the balance between quality and fun and attract people who’ve never tried high-quality coffee before.”
—Rob Bathe, founder, Folly Coffee

three packs of Folly Coffee

Edgy design: “Smiles are safe, but the unexpected edge of a scowl attracts the eye.”

Key influences: Craft beer—”the product can be world class, but the can is often fun, high-energy art work”—and EDM artists like Marshmello and Steve Aoki. 

Logo: “I love logos with some sort of hidden element, like the FedEx arrow.” The teeth on Folly’s signature face represent the Stone Arch Bridge. The face design offers flexibility to change expressions for different flavors. Each logo contains a coffee cup somewhere in the design. 

Minnesota silhouette: “We’re trying to elevate what Minnesota is doing for coffee, which is underrated. Minnesota is making some badass coffees, and we’re proud to be one of them.” 

Color: “I’d go to stores, stand in the coffee aisle, and the thing I noticed was very bright colors or white. A darker background stands out. The bright color layered on conveys high energy.” 

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Matte finish: Feels high quality. “Glossy can come across as lower end.” 

Flavor description: In contrast to competitors who tend to go text heavy and extremely detailed on their packaging, Bathe opted to keep Folly’s general: sweet or acidic, like a fine wine. “You take it home and decide what you’re tasting.” 

Insight

In 2020, consumers spent $2 billion on coffee makers and accessories for at-home brewing, according to market research firm NPD Group

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