Brand Consistency and Musings of a Starbucks Addict
- Danny Iny
Note: For more decaffeinated goodness on this topic, check out our Starbucks case study!
They say that the first step is admitting that you have a problem, so here goes.
My name is Danny, and I’m a Starbucks addict.
I wasn’t always this way. There was a time when I would roll my eyes at people who would patiently stand in line multiple times a day to order drinks with names like “Grande No-Whip Java Chip Frappuccino” (that’s basically coffee, some ice and a bag of cookies thrown into a blender).
I’m not that bad; my standing order is a Decaf Grande Latte (note the order – it’s never a Grande Decaf Latte – I’ll tell you why a bit later).
But still, the numbers don’t lie. I’m averaging 3 drinks per day. Multiply that by the $4.41 tax-in cost of my order, times the days in the year, and you’ll see that I’m spending about $4,828.95 per year at Starbucks. Ouch!
So… how did this happen?
Before I continue, I want to make it clear that I take complete responsibility for my problem. Nobody is forcing me to shell out that kind of cash on Starbucks – and after doing the math of how much I’m actually spending there, I’m definitely planning on cutting back!
That being said, though, I can say with confidence that my addiction is the result of a brilliantly executed marketing strategy on the part of Starbucks. Seriously… they’ve done everything right.
Actually, no, that’s not true – they’ve done almost everything right. There’s one thing that they haven’t done right, that annoys me every time I march back to them for another Decaf Grande Latte.
This is a great case study, so go through it – everything they’ve done right, and the one thing they’ve done wrong.
Almost everything right…
Let’s start with the coffee itself – it’s good coffee. This isn’t what makes their business work, but it’s a prerequisite, because nobody is going to pay almost $5 for a bad cup of coffee.
But it’s not just that the coffee is good – they make sure that your whole experience with the coffee is good. If something isn’t to your taste, they will redo it or change it, no questions asked. And they don’t force you to drink somebody else’s favorite kind of coffee – the long and complicated names are there so that everyone can get exactly the cup that they want.
That’s why it’s always a Decaf Grande Latte, and not ever a Grande Decaf Latte. Starbucks baristas are trained that your order follows this pattern: SIZE then DRINK then MODIFIERS, so for example Venti (size) Cappuccino (drink) with whipped cream (modifier). But there are exceptions to the pattern: if you order a decaf or soy milk, then that will come first, to make absolutely sure that they don’t give you something that you don’t want.
(Yes, I noticed them reversing the way I was saying it, and I asked. What can I say, I’m a curious guy.)
Speaking of the baristas – they’re pretty impressive, trained to tag-team long lines by having someone run ahead and take orders, so that your drink is close to being ready by the time you get to the cash. It’s probably fair to say that they’re the best customer service that minimum wage can buy – which makes me think that Starbucks is a great place to poach customer service reps, if you’re looking to hire…
That’s not all. The ambiance is nice and pleasant, and the WiFi is free (very important for an entrepreneur like me!). And it’s always crowded, but almost never so crowded that I can’t find a place to sit. My hunch is that this is the idea behind having a Starbucks on every corner – always make sure that there’s room for the customer to sit down and relax!
This Was Going To Be a Different Kind of Post…
Honestly, this post wasn’t going to be an Ode to Starbucks – the reason I wanted to write the post was to showcase the one thing they’re doing that annoys the hell out of me (and I promise I will, in just a moment).
But as I sat down to write the post, I felt like I had to be fair, and point out everything that they’re doing right, too – and that turned into a post that sounds a little bit like a love letter. Sigh.
Okay, let’s talk about the thing that bugs me…
Here’s the situation. I order my Decaf Grande Latte, pay for it, and collect my drink at the other side of the bar. Then I head over to the “drink maintenance counter”, and there are invariably 2-3 people trying to fix up their drinks, all getting in each other’s way.
The reason for this is that the counter is terribly laid out; you’ve got the drink caps and stir sticks on one side, the milk and cream on the other, and the sugar, sweetener, and garbage hole in the middle. The only thing you can get to from both sides is napkins.
The end result of this is that as long as there is more than one person at the counter (which there usually is), they’re almost guaranteed to get in each other’s way.
And it’s annoying!
Am I being a little uptight over one little thing? Well, honestly the answer is yes and no.
Yes, I’m being uptight in that it’s just one little thing, stacked up against everything that they do properly – and it annoyed me enough to write a blog post about it.
But no, I’m not being uptight because I spend almost $5,000 there every year, and they do everything that they possibly can for me to feel that this crazy amount is justified.
If this was a problem at a little family coffee shop, then I wouldn’t complain. It’s really Starbucks’ positioning and strategy that have raised my expectations to the point that this drives me nuts.
Brand Consistency: The Moral of the Story
The lesson here underlines the importance of authenticity and consistency in business. Whatever brand you are creating about yourself, it has to be reflected in every single experience that your customers have with you. If one or two little things are off, they will complain. Even worse, if more is off, then they just won’t believe you – and that’s the beginning of the end for a business.