The Class Insights Behind Starbucks’ Success
If the relationship between a company and its customers is based on respect, if it is based on truth, trust and transparency, an authentic "friendship" or even "love" can form.
However, America has historically been a transaction culture, such as smooth and convenient sales, which is a key idea in most retail formats with fast service. In a fast food restaurant everything is optimized for speed – ordering, delivery and eating should take place within 15 to 20 minutes, which serves a culture that travels a lot and is in a hurry.
Detect the fast food threat
When I joined Starbucks as VP Brand Planning in 1996, the transaction history for fast food restaurants was a challenge. We understand that coffee specialties are not fast food, but the seductive bittersweet aroma of coffee can easily be lost in a grill restaurant with a deep fryer. So we had to be attentive to understand and promote the qualities that make Starbucks so special.
Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, feared that if we followed the fast food model fully, the Starbucks brand would not achieve its growth and development potential as a respected and beloved brand, and it would deteriorate through transactions was right . Through a deep diving research project, we learned the story behind the global culture of coffee, specialty coffees, coffeehouses and the history of coffee culture, which was shaped by specific ideals. We realized that if we ignored them, Starbucks would likely become a corporate coffee chain, the "McDonald's of Coffee," which would be well below our true potential.
Embrace the coffee culture
We have learned that coffee plays many roles at different times of the day, in different social situations, in individual moods and in needs, none of which has been served by emulating fast food in mass production or the fast food environment. Coffee breaks ensure soulful calm and not only fill the bellies. By uncovering the history and role of coffee, we learned how to build a unique brand bridge story to reach coffee consumers, and also discovered a vocabulary of passion, purpose, depth, and personal meaning, all associated with coffee culture.
The vocabulary of this story was verbal, visual and experience-oriented. When we started to understand it, we were able to promote it through passion to do the product, service and overall experience just right. This vocabulary gave people who worked at Starbucks greater meaning and deeper perspectives, which contributed to the ideal coffee house experience through their individual actions.
Through this process, Starbucks has of course created a resilient brand bridge between its business model and the ideal customer experience. And since there was virtually no budget for mainstream media advertising at Starbucks at the time, we had to focus on the things we could control, including all aspects of store design, product packaging, and the many touch points of the brand we could influence.
As you know, it worked out pretty well, but it is important to go back to the starting point, namely to find the essential elements of the bridge between the brand we wanted to develop and the innate values, characteristics and expectations of our customers. By showing them consistent respect, respect and even love, we have built up a brand history and brand that continues to resonate today.
You can find these and other key ideas in my latest book, The Brand Bridge – How to Make a Deep Connection between Your Company, Your Brand, and Your Customers.
The Blake project brand value measurement system is comprehensive and measures each of the five drivers for insisting on customer brands – awareness, relevant differentiation, value, accessibility and emotional connection – as well as other factors such as brand vitality, brand loyalty, brand personality and brand associations. Contact us for more information on measuring brand value
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