Starbucks’ Success Secret is Branding

2008 article about Taylor Clark’s book about Starbucks from the internet archives~

Not Just Coffee: Starbucks’ Rise to Success

By Maria O’Connell

An average of six new Starbucks cafés open in the world each day. In fifteen years, Starbucks has not only seeped into 37 countries and all 50 states, but has grown from100 stores to 13,000. The chain serves about 40 million customers each week, giving jobs to 25 million coffee farmers. Starbucks infiltrated the American landscape more quickly than any other company in history; it was rated by Interbrand as the fourth-most effective brand in the world, after Apple, Google, and Ikea.

Fascinated by Starbucks’ rise to fame, Taylor Clark, a freelance journalist from Portland, Oregon, recently released his first book–Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce, and Culture. In it, he creates a detailed picture of Starbucks’ road to success, explaining how the organization integrated its way into society so effectively and so quickly.

Taylor claims that the secret behind Starbucks’ appeal is the incredible amount of control it exercises over its image. All decisions start and end with the company’s ringleader, Howard Schultz. Everything at Starbucks is planned. It is not just a Starbucks’ coffee that you get when you walk through the café doors; it is a Starbucks’ experience.

It was after careful psychological research that the company first decided to have white cups with green writing, “tall” lattes, natural materials, and round tables. Starbucks interviewed hundreds of coffee drinkers, seeking what it was that they wanted from a coffee shop. The overwhelming consensus actually had nothing to do with coffee; what consumers sought was a place of relaxation, a place of belonging. They sought an atmosphere.

The round tables in a Starbucks store were strategically created in an effort to protect self-esteem for those coffee-drinkers flying solo. After all, there are no “empty” seats at a round table. Service counters are built out of natural materials like warm woods and stone, rather than plastics and metals, to create a homier atmosphere.

Instead of ordering a “short” coffee or tea, one orders a “tall” at Starbucks.  The company intentionally formed their own coffee lingo, which by now could be recorded in a dictionary of coffee terminology. The terms “tall,” “grande,” and “venti” are the size options that Starbucks offers. The company was correct to assume that once their customers learned the lingo, other coffeehouses, where you must choose from a small, medium, or large, would make them feel uncomfortable and out of place. Starbucks’ coffee lingo gives the customer a chance to escape from American monotony and experience a charge of European sophistication.

Not surprisingly, the white and green Starbucks’ coffee cups were deliberately designed as well. These cups were created to be a walking advertisement for the company. Evidenced by more than 2 trillion customers each year, it worked.

Starbucks also has other branding secrets. The company will never discount drinks. Schultz is all about the image. He makes the point that you would never see a “buy one, get one free” deal on a Jaguar. In an effort to create brand prestige, he refuses to allow discounts. In addition, print ads for Starbucks often thank customers for their support of specific humanitarian concerns, such as tsunami relief. Starbucks donates money to many social causes. Thus, people are not only buying coffee or enjoying a relaxing atmosphere, they are also positively contributing to society.

The creation of Starbucks is a true story of success. Its marketing techniques have and will become an example to retail stores around the world. Undoubtedly, the Starbucks brand has been imprinted into history – making it one of those companies that will never disappear.

Starbucks Fact: “Contrary to popular belief, Starbucks actually boosts sales to nearby mom-and-pop coffee shops.”

For more information, please refer to Taylor Clark’s Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce, and Culture.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 30th, 2008 at 3:26 pm 
with 1 comment
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