Opinions about branding by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal

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Sunday, September 2, 2007

Advice for Starbucks - after the leaked memo

I recently read the leaked Howard Schultz memo (http://starbucksgossip.typepad.com/_/2007/02/starbucks_chair_2.html), in which the chairman of Starbucks states:

"Over the past ten years, in order to achieve the growth, development, and scale necessary to go from less than 1,000 stores to 13,000 stores and beyond, we have had to make a series of decisions that, in retrospect, have lead to the watering down of the Starbucks experience, and, what some might call the commoditization of our brand."

The memo goes on to talk about such things as the move toward automatic espresso machines, which, although they "solved a major problem in terms of speed of service and efficiency," also took away "much of the romance and theatre" involved in watching the barista create the coffee drink by hand. It also talks about the decision to move to flavor-locked packaging, which removed the smell of coffee from the stores -- "perhaps the most powerful non-verbal signal we had."

Schultz admits that "Some people even call our stores sterile, cookie cutter, no longer reflecting the passion our partners feel about our coffee."

I have an idea for Starbucks to add to the Brand Autopsy manifesto (http://brandautopsy.typepad.com/brandautopsy/2007/04/manifesto_what_.html): kill the brand while it's still at its peak, and replace it with another one. Right now. Today, the Starbucks brand is extracting the absolute most it can from its brand equity. It is at the top of the hill. It has nowhere to go but down. The company should pull back and create another, new brand "from the makers of Starbucks" which redefines the coffee category and gets back to the essence of what Starbucks used to be all about. They could call it "Brouhaha" (Brew-haha, get it?) They would benefit from a glorious mountainous buzz effect. Everybody would flock to the new brand - a Starbucks for the new millennium.

Just a thought - for what it's worth.