Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Still Nothing Special About Everywhere

CeBIT 2007
Originally uploaded by Mareen Fischinger

Fresh off the heels of another layoff announcement, Starbucks is now entertaining the idea of value meals. On July 1st of last year, when they announced their first wave of layoffs and store closings, I addressed what I thought was the most glaring issue. They not only had a brand identity problem, they had an everywhere problem. Clay commented and said it best when he said, "Starbucks is like the coffee-shop version of an ATM..." He was right.

There is nothing special about everywhere and there is certainly nothing special about value meals. McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, Dairy Queen, Jack In The Box, Hardee's, Whataburger, Carl's Jr., Backyard Burger, Long John Silver's, Taco Bell, Dunkin Donuts, and many, many more all offer value meals. The Starbucks brand has been watered down. It is nothing special.

The moment you start copying your competitor you lose. Instead of having a story that is unique and a brand that produces rabid fans, Starbucks seems content on being just like everyone else.

"Going to the other side of the street can be a barrier," Launi Skinner (2006), senior vice president in charge of Starbucks' store development. She was partially right. There was a barrier. It just wasn't the barrier she was thinking. The fact is that soon, Starbucks won't be unique enough to cross the street for. Especially when you can go to the nearest Dunkin Donuts and get the same value meal there.

There's still nothing special about everywhere.

Special thanks to Oliver Blanchard and Aria Moyal who reminded me of my previous post during a conversation on Twitter about the proposed Starbucks' value meals.


Chris McDaniel said...

I wonder what the next iteration of service businesses will look like, after the current group collapses under their own weight. The era of "It is what it is", Cover-Your-A** management is nearing its end.

It's a very exciting time to be around - very soon, people that "get it" will be in charge. (If you shop at places like Zappos, you already know why I'm excited.)

Anonymous said...

You say, "The Starbucks brand has been watered down. It is nothing special.

The moment you start copying your competitor you lose. Instead of having a story that is unique and a brand that produces rabid fans, Starbucks seems content on being just like everyone else."

I am perplexed by this one becuase I both agree and disagree with you at the same time.

The Brand name and availabilty of the product is indeed watered down.
But, does this make the product watered down? I think not.

Who knows if you were one of the sheep that first started going to Starbucks because it was the cool trendy place to hang out. Now that there is a store at every corner you turn the exclusivity is just not there for you any longer, so you turn your back to it.

It is the same thing for all trends. Eventually everyone gets involved because they want a piece of the pie as well. Have you ever done anything else as a trend only later to decide, 'Why did I do that?' Maybe like wearing fake glasses? Hmmm.....

But let it be stated that as far as Starbucks goes, the product that they provide ( and I am talking coffee here not frilly little girlie drinks that have no coffee in them) is a premium product that in a lot of locations is unrivaled.

What I see as being a huge burden on Starbucks at the moment is:
1. The trend has been diminshed because the trendy find a new trend. Starbucks has been played out for those types of people.
2. The girlie products cost way too much. Due to the current state of the economy it is kind of a no brainer that 'John Smith' is going to think twice before ordering that Funky Monkey with a double shot of cream and sugar.

But to reiterate my original thought. The product is a premium product that is still the same product that you fell in love with the first time you went. I still keep my bags of it at home to brew my coffee.

This is a thought for you. Brew your own and you can save tons of money. Here is the kicker though, you don't have the cool little Starbucks cup to show everyone what you are drinking. :(
You just have to drink it in your own mug and just enjoy the product for what it is. Good coffee.

Chris McDaniel said...

Starbucks' ENTIRE schtick was the trendiness - being one of the cool kids, with the cool cup in hand. Problem is, their coffee is TERRIBLE. Awful. Horrendous.

Cheap beans, overroasted to hide the lack of quality. (That's why every cup tastes burned, hence the nickname 'Charbucks'.)

Fact is, Starbucks won the marketing war... kind of like why Windows is dominant instead of Mac; VHS over Beta; on and on... Barnie's and Caribou both serve a much better product. (And Dunkin', for that matter...) They just didn't win the Coffee Coolness contest.

Anyone who "keep[s] bags of it at home to brew" either doesn't know any better, or maybe gets it on the cheap with their employee discount?

Anonymous said...

Thank you Chris, to a point you help my arguement. The majority of people that went/go to Starbucks are wannabe's. ;)

Since as you say the coffee is horrible, is there any other reason you and the toadies would go there, other than to be 'cool'?

I keep various types of coffee in my freezer. And quite honestly there is no coffee better than what I can order from vendors not in my area. But, that coffee is not always available. I do like Starbucks though and funnily enough I do like the bold flavors it produces because that IS coffee.

Sorry I am not a fan of coffee that you could read a newspaper if it were in the bottom of your mug.
Again this turns around full face to the same point:
-since everyone else is doing it I'll do it too and I can be cool. Plenty of people don't like coffee for coffee sake, they like it because they think they are cool or more mature by doing so. It is much like the young child that sees their parents doing/consuming something and automatically want to do the same thing as them. ;)

imnotsam said...

There used to be a special brand of people who worked for Starbucks. With less stores it was a lot harder to land a job at a Starbucks. That meant they could custom tailor the hiring of their "partners" and they could really give the place an authentic coffee house feel. In a coffee house you want a place where you can relax and be surrounded by cool people. There is nothing wrong with this. When Starbucks branched out so much and became an everywhere kind of place they not only opened it up to every Tom, Dick, and Harriet from the suburbs but they also lost their way. They could no longer hire the best baristas that would remember every customer and make them feel at home. Drinking good coffee is one thing, but hanging out with the coffee house culture is something different altogether. Starbucks wasn't selling the best coffee man had ever tasted, it's true. They were selling a hip place to come when you weren't at home, or school/work. When the hip place started to become a manufactured faceless corporate cardboard drone, complete with a drive-thru window, which any true barista will tell you is sacrilege to the true nature of a coffee house, then you have mutated into something else entirely and you not only provide mediocre coffee but you also lose your luster. You've lost your appeal.

I think Starbucks should take a note from the pages of In N Out burger. Close most of your stores and specialize in uniqueness and elitism. Or start over with a different brand name and hand over the "may I take your order" clone over to someone lacking a soul.

If you really want to do coffee right, anonymous, you would roast your own beans. It's the only way to get the freshest flavor from them. Straight from the growers.