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Starbucks and the “Aroma First” Rule

Starbucks announced it is going to stop selling heated sandwiches as the smell interferes with the scent of the coffee.

Gutsy move. Killing a significant cash contributor in the name of experience takes moxie. But it is the right thing to do if Starbucks wants to truly focus on what has been deemed important to the core of the brand.

Howard and the Starbucks team are following what I dubbed the “Aroma First” Rule.

I made this recommendation almost a year ago during a volley of posts titled “Solving Starbucks Problems: One Post at a Time.” This was a collaboration between John Moore at Brand Autopsy and myself to help Starbucks address concerns Howard Schultz had personally highlighted.

Here’s what I outlined in my post

Create and Strictly Follow an “Aroma First” Rule

Since coffee is Starbucks core, and scent is the strongest cue for our senses – make aroma the highest priority. (Yes, even more important than perceived increased sales). Maintain Howard’s original desire to preserve aroma and implement an “Aroma First” rule. It’s simple, for every decision; ask, “Is this going to negatively affect aroma in any way?” If the answer is “yes” do not do it…

Let’s use the “Aroma First” rule to review previous decisions and some new ideas…

Project Affect on Aroma Implement?
Provide pre-ground coffee instead of in-store grinding. Negative. Eliminates chance for smell. No. Do not.
Heat foods in-store. Negative. Introduces conflicting smells. No. Do not.
Use FlavorLock pre-packaged beans. Negative. This eliminates hand scooping. Hand scooping adds coffee aroma to stores. No. Do not. Use these in the grocery channel and at airport locations where scent is not critical.
Install mini coffee roasters in select stores. Positive. If roasted properly will increase the coffee aroma. Yes, explore this idea. If they can do it in-store at Whole Foods Market, Costco Warehouses, and the two-location Atomic Cafe, Starbucks could consider it.
Use barrels of coffee to merchandise coffee. Positive. Will enhance aroma. Yes, explore this idea. But this coffee is for display (and aroma) only and cannot be brewed.

The Aroma First tool provides a guide to fix old problems, and prevent new ones.

Here are the links if you want to read more of the Solving Starbucks Problems series. It addresses all five of the challenges Howard identified.

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