Starbucks: Trying To Be All Things, To All People
I saw this ad today on Facebook, for Starbucks Blonde Roast Coffee. *sigh*
In addition to being awkward to order:
“I’d like a tall blonde with whip, please.”
It isn’t helping Starbucks be remarkable, or stand out… It is causing them to blend in.
What made Starbucks remarkable
A secret to Starbucks success was their dark roast. It was a polarizing flavor – back in the day. You either learned to like their strong bold coffee, or you called the coffee burnt and referred to the company as Charbucks or Tarbucks. You preferred the traditional East Coast coffee we were used to – with milk and sugar – from McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts.
Once you got used to that dark flavor, it was hard to go back to a cup of Dunkin’ or 7-Eleven. That was Starbucks “thing.”
Starbucks took coffee – a commodity – and made it a specialty. It was the best and the tastiest. Starbucks was remarkable.
And it worked. Proof? Today 7-Eleven, McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts – and all the rest – offer bold coffee and espresso-based beverages.
The problem with your competition catching up to what you’re doing is, in the eyes of the customer this potentially creates “parity.” A situation where there isn’t enough perceived difference between one product and another to drive preference. When there is perceived parity between products, but price is dramatically different, this creates a problem for your company.
“Gosh, I can get my McMuffin at McDonald’s and their coffee is bold too. And, it is cheaper. Hmmm why don’t I just get my breakfast and coffee at McD’s? I’m lovin’ it.”
What should Starbucks do / have done?
1. Focus delivering the highest quality, hand-crafted product. (Small batch steamed milk, highly-calibrated grinders, freshest roasted coffee).
Which they have focused on.
2. Create ways to break that parity – differentiate – by making customer service so stellar… so gold standard… so awesome… it makes every penny the customer spends more than worth it. Thus, increasing perceived value and staying remarkable.
Which they haven’t done.
Instead of differentiating, they’ve made Starbucks even MORE similar to McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts by offering a light-roast Blonde coffee.
Starbucks perceives themselves as “leaving money on the table” with all those customers who don’t come to Starbucks and prefer lighter roast at places like Dunkin’.
The myth is… by offering more, we create a bigger net and catch more customers.
The reality is… when you try to be all things to all people, you no longer represent anything specific. You’re no longer remarkable, but common. Customers don’t know why they should specifically come to you. And, if you’re as good or the same as the next place… customers may as well choose the next place.
Starbucks is no longer about great, dark coffee. They have taken their coffee specialty and made it again a commodity.
So now, their strategy, like McDonald’s, you choose Starbucks not because it is the best and tastiest, but because it is convenient.
Bummer. (p.s. Starbucks leadership… there is still time!)
Image source: Starbucks.com