Friday, November 16, 2007

Is Starbucks a brand?


First let me posit this: my generational bias does not permit me to go to Starbucks. I can't bring myself to spend $4 or more on a cuppa joe and I can't abide the lines and the pretense. That said, I heard a report on NPR this morning that Starbucks is experiencing the first drop in same-store sales in its history. Also reported in Ad Age, the hoary traditional advertising ossified fossilized has-been. http://adage.com/article?article_id=122060

First I wondered, should there be something called the Starbucks Index--a harbinger of a recession? Because you'd have to assume, in the midst of a serious economic downturn people might begin to chasten their $20/day coffee habits. Then the NPR report continued and said that Starbucks will be launching its first national television campaign as an attempt to stop what it hopes is only a temporary slide.

In all, however, it made me think about Starbucks. Is it a fad, a trend or a brand? Does it stand for something permanent?

I'd love your thoughts.

5 comments:

T said...

it represented, when it started, a sophisticated modern big city life style. it took one of our daily habits and turned it into the ritual we've always wanted it to be. a special quality sort of moment.
The price was and is ridiculous for a cup of coffee, however nice the shops smells, but not more so than the price for a glass of beer or a glass of wine. it became, perhaps, the modern day three martinis? It tapped into something that appealed to us.
i think the drop has to do both with a sagging economy, as well as with saturation. Starbucks has made itself into a k-mart of the coffee-break. The exclusive with-it club of urbanites find themselves far too mainstream. That they're on each corner in every corner of the world's cross-streets already can only mean three things; too many, too often, too common. Add too expensive. Will a TV campaign change that? Highly unlikely. it will simply confirm the growing unhippness of the "brand".

Jeff said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff said...

I don't entirely agree with Starbucks being too expensive. In my mind, it's all about the up-sell. A medium (ahem, grande) coffee is about two bucks, which is perfectly reasonable in my mind. They get you when you start looking at the menu. Now, I'm usually a Dunkin' Donuts guy, but whenever I go into a starbucks I feel compelled to spoil myself.

It usually goes something like this:

"Hi, can I please have a medium, wait, grande coff...um, you know what... make that a nonfat gingerbread latte."

Kaboom! The display above the register goes from 2 to 5 bucks. I've got nobody to blame but myself. But the latte is always delicious.

As far as Starbucks being in trouble...No way. Think of all the little suburban towns in America - What's in the middle of the town center? A strategically placed Starbucks...

Little Jane goes with mom in the middle of the day. Ten year old Katie goes, gets a hot chocolate and do her math homework in the comfy chairs. The teenagers meet there before going to a kegger in the woods.

They're landmarks, you see...

But more importantly, when Jane, Katie and the teenagers start drinking coffee every day, where are their brand preferences going to lie? I have a good guess...

geo said...

jeff, not sure i agree with you. they probably used to say about woolworth's.

i wonder about starbucks. at some point $7 coffee might be regarded as the enemy of the people. I see a cynicism growing already about our kneejerk profligacy. It could catch up with them.

Jeff said...

I don't disagree with you. In fact, the pretense keeps me away most of the time, too. But an enemy of the people? There are a lot of products and brands out there I'd throw into that category.

Slower expansion, sure. Stock hit, already happening. I'm just not seeing the demise of it.

Maybe that's where we disagree...