I’ll admit this right now; I own a Keurig, and I love it. In the past, brewing a whole pot of coffee was wasteful, and waiting ages for a few cups to brew was irritating and time consuming. The Keurig literally changed the way I made coffee. Fresh, quick, one cup at a time. It’s a great invention.
But what I also loved was the variety. Not only could I choose from so many different varieties and flavors, I could also use reusable cups that I could fill with my own freshly-ground favorites. I grind, I fill, I brew, and I enjoy.
The new Keurig 2.0 machines, coming soon, are about to change all of that. And in the process, they’re going to create the kind of backlash that will turn product evangelists and brand loyalists into haters. It will happen almost overnight, too.
Keurig Introduces DRM To Consumers Who HATE DRM
As you probably know, DRM is Digital Rights Management. It would take pages and pages to discuss the full impact of DRM on the world, but in a nutshell it puts technological restrictions on products and media. It handcuffs you to certain brands, and it makes you use certain devices to get what you want. For instance, Apple’s iBooks can only be read on iOS devices.
In the case of Keurig, they’re putting DRM into the machines and their own K-Cups. So, you will only be able to use coffee from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, the parent company of Keurig. Every other kind of K-Cup will not work in the machine. Whether you buy discount cups from a grocery club like Costco or Walmart, or grind your own coffee for the reusable cups, you’re going to be out of luck with the new machines.
The technology is implanted inside the lid of the K-Cup, and the Keurig 2.0 machine has a reader that will access this tag and let the machine function. As you can imagine, this is not going to be easy to get around.
Here’s the problem with Keurig’s DRM decision; it smacks of corporate greed, and stinks of market monopolization. Green Mountain argues that this is a way to ensure the best possible quality, saying “it is critical for performance and safety reasons that the system only brews Keurig brand packs.”
You can smell the spin a mile away. What they’re really doing is cornering the K-Cup market, and with the competitors removed, they can effectively boost their own sales and raise prices whenever they want. You want coffee; you have to buy Keurig.
But millennials, who are big fans of the current Keurig system, do not like being told what to buy and how to buy it. They are huge proponents of a much more free and open society. Being shackled to only one brand of coffee is going to feel like bullying to them, and they will protest in the best way they know…with their wallets.
Keurig’s move is clearly one that comes from the people at the very top of the ladder, who want to see margins grow, and sales rise. They want all the profits for themselves. And on paper, this clearly looks good to everyone. But honestly, in reality this is a PR disaster getting ready to boil over. New Keurig owners may not care, but current ones (who are the foundation of new sales) will have a big shock coming to them.
I predict one of two things will happen. First, sales of the Keurig DRM will be slow, and get so much pushback that they will be withdrawn from the market.
Second, and much more likely, is that the backlash will be so great that there will be a patch, or workaround, for the DRM technology. And because the market always finds a way, you will see K-Cups not from Keurig that will work in the machines. This is inevitable.
All Keurig is doing is alienating loyal fans of their machines, and will have a big mess to clear up. Let’s hope their PR department is getting ready to put the fires out.
And if anyone from Keurig is reading this, please, explain this ridiculous move. It is unfathomable why you would do this to your customers.