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Forget The Shark, Starbucks Jumps The Whale

Starbucks Coffee Company
on Monday the 17th of May in the year 2010
has “jumped the whale.”

Starbucks announced today they will start offering Starbucks Natural Fusions, flavored coffee beans in grocery stores.

Starbucks Natural Fusions

For those of you who remember when Starbucks was more about quality than quantity, flavored beans were considered the devil. If coffee was plotted on a Monopoly game board. Starbucks was “Boardwalk” and flavored coffee was “Mediterranean Avenue.”

Monopoly Board

Starbucks roasts its coffee darker than most – thus the nicknames: Tarbucks or Charbucks. Starbucks did this to draw out the natural flavors in coffee. Great coffee doesn’t need additives for great flavor, it requires the right beans roasted for the right amount of time. Great wineries don’t add apricot, honey, or oak flavoring to their wines; they grow, blend, and age grapes in a manner to draw out those flavors.

Starbucks is dumbing down their coffee to make money in the flavored coffee category. Just as they dumbed down their coffee to enter the instant coffee market with their VIA product.

It doesn’t matter if you’re making THE premium quality product. You could make the best quality, gourmet, all-natural, organic, fried pork rinds in the world… But, you’re still selling fried pork rinds.

To drive sales, Starbucks should focus on the “specialty retailer” part of their business and improve the quality and experience in their stores. Starbucks used to be about providing a delightful in-store experience; hand-crafted beverages, community, quality.

Starbucks wants to become consumer product conglomerate – with focus on getting their products in as many channels as possible.

Last week I wrote about Seattle’s Best Coffee, Starbucks little sister brand, and despite a new logo – have no real news to share. Flavored beans and instant coffee are a perfect fit for the Seattle’s Best brand, and would be quite newsworthy for the brand. Let Seattle’s Best offer the gimmicky coffee, keep Starbucks premium.

(I know what you’re thinking… Isn’t a dark cherry mocha Frappuccino a gimmicky coffee? Yes, it is. And the topic for another post! That’s how Starbucks is trying to be more like Dairy Queen than the king of coffee.)

There is a decision-filter product managers and marketers often forget when there is an opportunity to make more money.

“Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

Just because Starbucks found a way to make a higher-quality flavored coffee, doesn’t mean they should.

The Phrase: Jumping The Shark (and Jumping The Whale)

Jon Hein, the guy who coined the phrase, says that jumping the shark is the “defining moment when you know that your favorite television program has reached its peak. That instant that you know from now on… its all downhill… From that moment on, the program will simply never be the same.”

Fonzie Jumps The Shark

The phrase originated from a climactic scene in American sitcom Happy Days in September 1977. In this story, the central characters visit Los Angeles, where Fonzie (Henry Winkler), wearing swim trunks and his trademark leather jacket, jumps over a confined shark on water skis, answering a challenge to demonstrate his bravery. (Source: Wikipedia)

*Here, with Starbucks dismissing one of it’s founding quality principles, a shark isn’t large enough marine life. Jump the whale is the scale. Particularly, for a coffee company named after a character from the book Moby Dick. In the novel, Starbuck was the ‘coffee-loving’ first mate.

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