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Failure of the Brand

August 3, 2009

Last week, Starbucks issued a fact sheet about their newest venture: 15th Ave. Coffee and Tea.  The gist of this new store is that it is a Starbucks (that happens to sell beer, wine, and ice cream) without the branding of a typical Starbucks.

The company is attempting to replicate the feel of a locally owned and operated coffee shop and many don’t believe that is possible.   The images from inside the shop are pretty stunning.  The Starbucks corporation has obviously thrown its corporate designers and, more importantly, corporate dollars behind this “local shop.”  The ambiance is folksy, yet clean and efficient–the best of what one wants from a local coffee shop.  Unfortunately, I doubt this model will be able to effectively replicate the vibe of a local shop. Peter Merholz agrees, writing:

Your favorite local coffeehouse is the product of someone’s passion, dedication, and probable borderline craziness. 15th Ave is the product of corporate product design and development.

What is most interesting to me, however, is that the opening of this store indicates the failure of Starbucks as a brand.  They have spent decades and millions (if not billions) of dollars to solidify Starbucks as your first thought upon hearing ‘coffee’ and it appears to have backfired.

Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, has been concerned with the over “commoditization of the Starbucks experience” for years but this shift seems to run deeper than corporate decisions that moved the coffee chain from an experience to a money making venture.  Instead, Starbucks has over-saturated their ideal market and, as a backlash, many people have–again–sought out the comfort of a locally owned, non-corporate coffee experience.  For many, the Starbucks brand holds no cache.

Might we again see items sold for use value instead of the label on the packaging?  Could this be the death knell of our wholly branded consumer culture?

With that being said, my Starbucks doppio espresso at lunch was delicious.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 4, 2009 12:18 pm

    I think Starbucks has been one of the greatest brand success stories however its commoditization and overexposure contributed to the lost of a very important attribute for an upscale brand: exclusivity, and with it they are also losing their edge and differentiation.
    Greed kills.

  2. August 12, 2009 3:02 pm

    Starbucks represents the best and worst of corporate culture. They honestly do have a good product, good service, and they’re decently priced. (they ain’t cheap, but what is anymore?) As such, they’ve grown huge and profited considerably. The nations coffee scene is probably better for their influence. They brought (real) coffee to every town in America.

    But, they succumbed to the magnetic pull of their own success. I wouldn’t count them out, though. They’re no fools. I predict a resurgence.


  1. Starbuck and the American Brand « Good Tithings

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