Starbucks, looking for “personality”

Posted by Rob Walker on July 17, 2009
Posted Under: Ethics,Foolhunting,Murketing

As you may have read, Starbucks is testing out the idea of removing the Starbucks name from some of its locations, remodeling and renaming them, so that they look more like neighborhood coffee places. A Starbucks brand honcho says the idea is to give these locations “a community personality.”

Insofar as these coffee shops remain, in reality, disguised outposts of a ubiquitous multinational, this is obviously a completely synthetic version of “community personality.” It’s reminiscent of the big breweries putting out new brands that look like craft beers, or mass-market clothing brands tweaking product lines to get the “handmade” look, among other examples. In this case it seems that Starbucks sent out some of their experts on this matters to sit around actual local coffee shops to take notes and crib ideas. One Seattle coffee shop owner, such visitors returned many times over the period of a year, toting “obnoxious folders that said ‘Observation.'”

Presumably such detailed ethnographic study is necessary, for the chain’s new indie-simulacrum locations to be sufficiently, you know, authentic.

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

Reader Comments

Starbucks had already become McCafe before McDonald’s came out with that “brand.” Stale, standardized experience with cheaper product (Pike Place vs. House Blend, which change cost them all of my afternoon business).

It would be a lot more interesting to me if they’d looked at what was out in the market and decided to do something _different_ rather than clone the best aspects of the local coffee house. Here’s hoping that they have “the vision thing.” But it’s a small hope.

Written By chipg on July 17th, 2009 @ 11:55 am
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