Starbucks without the Bucks

I was quite surprised when I heard that soon there might not be a Starbucks. Why?! 450starbucks_smithAccording to the article in  The Seattle Times big coffee giant will be dropping the Starbucks name at their test location in Seattle. If the new approach is successful it will move to other markets. The new Starbucks will bear the name that reflects the neighborhood location like “15th Avenue Coffee & Tea” and will serve coffee, tea, wine and beer, and will feature live music and poetry readings. Yeah, you read it right… beer and wine at Starbucks. Like all the city has been missing was to have more bars.

 I wouldn’t say that I am a big coffee drinker but I do enjoy a latte once in a while. The reason I like the Starbucks brand is for their atmosphere, image and their new non coffee drinks like Vivanno and Tazo teas. starbucks-logo-thumbFor me Starbucks is like wearing a Gucci dress as opposed to a dress off the high street, and who ever said ‘no’ to a Gucci dress?!  I also like that the company is internationally recognized and has stores in 21 countries.

The reason behind this no branding idea is to increase foot traffic and sales, as the brand has been struggling in recent months because consumers cut out small luxuries to save money. Tim Pfeiffer, senior VP of global design said that the new names would give the stores “a community personality”.

But that’s not the only reason why Starbucks has been getting attention recently. Neighboring stores have reported that the giant has been stealing their identity and copying everything from the paint colour to the light fixtures.  The Seattle Times reports that earlier last year a large group of Starbucks employees have been visiting nearby coffee shops with the signs that said “Observation”. Has the company hit rock bottom that they have to spy on others in order to succeed in this business or have their branding team run out of ideas? A spokeswoman for Starbucks, Anna Kim-Williams said “We’re continuing our commitment to delivering specialty coffee excellence while refreshing our store design with an amplified focus on local relevance. Ultimately, we hope customers will feel an enhanced sense of community and a deeper connection to our coffee heritage”.

Well, I hardly think that passing off someone’s signature look as your own is re-branding. The company might say all the right things but their actions make you question their intentions. Starbucks brand has been such a fundamental part of their success. According to the fan page on Facebook Starbucks has 3,679,096 fans and 259,075 Twitter followers. Do you think that loyal Starbucks fans will approve of this no branding, no logo approach? How do you feel about the tactics used by Starbucks in order to reinvent itself?

 I personally would think before going to Starbucks if they were to roll out the new “community stores” across the country. I wouldn’t feel connected to the brand as each store will have their own neighborhood logo. But I guess only time will tell if this approach was worth it.


17 thoughts on “Starbucks without the Bucks

  1. Very interesting! I’m not sure yet how I feel about their new strategy. Personally, I am not a Starbucks fan at all… I prefer Second Cup. But personal taste aside, I think if they’re having trouble, why not try something different? And I mean, if it doesn’t turn out to be successful, they can just stay with that one Seattle location, they don’t have to expand the idea any further, and then everyone will be happy. Nothing wrong with trying new things, if you ask me! =)

    • Leyla,

      Its not a bad idea to try new things, however, in this case Starbucks has to be careful as to not loose their loyal customers due to bad publicity they can get, as Starbucks is about image and the atmosphere/lifestyle. 🙂

  2. Is this supposed to somehow be relevant? Comparing Starbucks to a Gucci dress is pretty much advertising that your sole concern is about image. If you had done any research you would have understood why Starbucks has such a large customer base, it has little to do with image, save the sixteen year old bimbos who just like walking around town with stamped cups.

    • James,

      I am looking at this story from a marketing perspective and how this can affect the company’s image in the future. I am just delivering the facts. It’s unethical to take someone else’s designs and ideas and pass them off as your own, which can tarnish one’s image. This can create bad publicity for the brand especially if the case was to go to Court. As far as the Gucci comparison goes, every product out there has something that makes consumers feel connected to the brand and purchase more of it and when the company drops their brand logo not everyone might like that idea. Bucks represents a certain lifestyle; product quality aside for a minute.
      Hope that clarifies things.

  3. I’m sure the Howard Shultz has overlooked the fact that stealing someone else’s ideas would someday land him in court. All I’m saying is that it’s naive to draw facts from an article you’ve seen in a paper, without having done any field research. If a mogul such as Starbucks simply decided to rebrand using somebody else’s tactics it wouldn’t go unnoticed, they would already be in court. As for the company’s mission, I can assure you it’s not first and foremost to please “image conscious” people. You cannot possibly begin to understand the company from a marketing perspective not having done research into the roots of the company. Marketing is simply a shell. But do you really know what they are marketing is the question. If you have ambitions to go into marketing I wouldn’t spend precious time regurgitating other people’s field research, I’d do some myself and come up with a fresh angle, or change the name of my blog.

  4. And again, you haven’t even worked for the company and claim to know exactly what it’s about.
    “Starbucks is about image and the atmosphere/lifestyle”

    • James,

      Last time I checked this was a free country and anyone was allowed to express their opinions. I am not making any claims, I am expressing my opinion on the matter and questioning their business tactics. I am not in a position to deliver primary research in this situation and can only rely on secondary information. I came across the article in The Seattle Times and it caught my attention and I decided to share what I think about it. Once again, I am not claiming anything here, I am talking from the perspective of the consumer not the company.

      If you have any insider information on the company’s new strategy please share it here for everyone to see. Thanks for your input.

  5. James,
    This blog is not about journalism, its about analyzing the marketing strategy or angle. As great as it would be to do the first hand research its not feasible due to the travel costs to Seattle. But, I think the secondary research is okay for this case.

    I am sure like any other company, Starbucks is about profits, especially now in a bad economy. So, this no-brand image is its latest idea to stay in the black, the problem is that its getting negative attention. This attenmtion may damage perception and values of a brand. A brand not yet in existence.
    For marketing, it will be harder to fix these perceptions, especially in the Seattle area a place where the first no brand locations could pop up. Furthermore, this may tarnish the established image of Starbucks, especially if Starbucks fails to market these no brand locations to a different demographic.
    This is what Victoria is trying to convey.

    Anyway, James. Thanks for your insight, and stating what u disagree on. I’m sure Victoria will take into consideration your remarks.


  6. Wow! First blog post and you’ve already managed to stir up some drama! Looks like you are doing great Victoria:)
    Blogging is all about expressing personal opinion and views…so keep doing what you are doing…That is the true essence and point of blogging…
    In terms of Sturbucks..I personally don’t think they will end up rebranding, because their success lies in their “Image” ….
    Looking forward to your new posts:)


  7. Blogging is all about sharing your opinion and bringing a different angle. If you investgative journalism and research, buy the paper and stop reading blogs.

    Great post Victoria! And to answer your question, I believe the no brand marketing scheme will succeed as there are many people out there that avoid giant brands. I’d rather pay for quality rather than a recognizable brand.

  8. Alex, I think what James was trying to say is, for this particular article the company should have been researched. Starbucks isn’t about branding, it’s about first and foremost quality, if you or the author of this article had worked for or researched the company, this would have been evident to you. Uninformed opinions are unnecessary litter in the blogging arena.

  9. You guys are so critical! Give a girl a break…

    Number 1 – Go read newspapers!
    Number 2 – If you are so good at research, start writing yourself!
    Number 3 – Western society is going down the tubes because people are too critical. Why do you think so many people are afraid of change or trying new things? Failure allows you to learn and grow. Stop wasting your time leaving negative comments on blogs and do something better with your time.

    Constructive criticism can work wonders!


  10. Alex, everyone’s entitled to an opinion and they’re right. Society isn’t going down the tubes because peopleare being too critical. Quality and intellect are going down the toilet because people are too easily impressed. In order for there to be evolution of any sort, peple must strive to be better. These days everyone posts blogs but hardly anyone has anything worthwhile to say. And I agree with the criticisms. You counteract your own points

    “Failure allows you to learn”, yet you tell people to stop saying they don’t like the article. Blogs are meant to be criticized. It’s all about public opinion.

  11. Great post Victoria!

    James, as a person who works within the marketing industry (advertising, to be more specific) I can tell you that althouh Starbucks may not be ALL about the image and athmosphere, those qualities make up a significant part of Starbucks’ brand essense. Howard Shultz got the inspiration for the first Starbucks when visiting the espresso houses in Italy in the 1970 and what startled him about them is that people were not only buying their coffee there, they were enjoying their time at the espresso house – socializing, laughing, reading and listening to music. He injected those qualities into the Starbucks brand and with time, we’ve come to associate it with a specific ambiance which you don’t find in a local Coffee Time. So yes, I would say that the Starbucks experience goes way beyond the cup of coffee you purchase, it’s a an emotional connection what the brand advocates would not want to lose.

    On the topic of the unbranded stores – I really don’t think That Shultz will let go of the Starbucks brand in favour of the no-name coffee shops. However, I think that they would make a great addition to the company’s current operations, in order to target those who don’t currently enjoy the big chain that Starbucks has become. Way to expand operations, I think it’ll be a smart move.

  12. Matt you are right! I just believe in the philosophy of encouraging others and trying to help them to improve. And this is how we will evolve. “You suck!” Doesn’t help anyone to evolve and become better. If you think they suck then give them guidance to improve.

    I just want to congratulate Victoria as you gotta a popular blog already with your first post getting more than 14 comments. I want to see more articles as you haven’t posted in a while and take everyones feedback to become better but still be true to yourself.

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