Some Things About Starbucks

By Matt Van Hoven 

Obviously the Starbucks (SBUX) money maker is in the crapper lately but it’s pretty obvious that it’s not really due to branding &#151 or at least that’s the perception. Starbucks presumably has problems because they finally got some competition from chains with basically the same product and a reigned in bottom line. Here’s a few things we’ve noticed about the in store experience:

The baristas have gotten nicer. There was a long period of time when they were kind of pricks sometimes, probably because a lot of people complain about their lattes not having enough foam or whatever &#151 but the brand promises that your coffee will be perfect since you have to take out a mortgage to get one. Fine. Somebody must have smacked the in-store folks.


And not only has the politeness factor increased (something you’ll never find at McDonald’s/Dunkin, btw) but now the baristas get all excited about pouring the milk for you. Not only is this efficient but it also brings the service level (in that sense) up to snuff with McD’s and Dunkin, who automatically do the same and probably save coffee by doing in. And time refilling those jugs of milk/cream/cottage cheese.

The coffeemaker has dropped the price of a cup of coffee &#151 signifying another playing-field-leveling move and a shift in brand perception. So much of Starbs’ rapid growth was due to the astronomical cost of their brews, garnered in a relatively competition-free environment. That’s part of why so many people disliked the brand and now that reality has set in, more people will be able to enjoy their coffee without making a sacrifice. Or, more importantly, feeling like they can only drink there once in awhile.

Finally, the brand is getting into social media. It’s a little annoying to say that but at least they’re getting their customers where they live. As a brand, Starbucks is more approachable (IMO) that McD’s or Dunkin. It’s where you go to meet someone for an interview &#151 meeting at the other two = lame. There’s very little to differentiate the two, but what Starbucks has is ambiance, which equates to comfort, home, friendliness &#151 and that’s always a good thing.

There’s more about this, after the jump.

More: “BBDO Finally Gets Its Props From Starbucks

In TIME today:

Starbucks is joining a long line of large companies that want to begin to use Twitter, perhaps the most successful Web 2.0 launch in over a year, to bring in customers. According to The New York Times, Starbucks will run print ads that encourage people to look for its new marketing messages be alerting them to the campaign using the Twitter text messaging service.

The trouble with the idea is that Twitter users may not see the service as a commercial enterprise that should be used to bombard them with advertising. Users of MySpace and Facebook have already staged revolts against the services being used to solicit them to buy products and services. People who use Twitter to communicate with friends may feel the same way. If the service becomes a place where conversations among users are interrupted by marketing messages, Twitter could actually begin to lose users. (Read: “Your Facebook Relationship Status: It’s Complicated.”)

Starbucks has fostered the image of being customer friendly and has not resorted to aggressive advertising to bring in new coffee drinkers. Flooding Twitter in an attempt to drive people to its coffee shops may back fire especially if it comes across as crass commercialism.

Alright Douglas A. McIntyre, you’ve got a point about marketing via social media but I just have to talk about this for a second. Like I mentioned above, Starbucks is familiar, friendly brand so if they use the twitter account for anything other than just, you know, talking to people &#151 well they’re screwed.