By Katy Echols
I love Starbucks. I love its coffee. I love its service. I love its deep comfy chairs and trendy music. And I love that there is one on every corner. Obviously, I am not alone in this obsession.
For coffee lovers nationwide, Starbucks has become a haven. It can easily be named one of the most iconic companies of our generation.
So how did Starbucks become a star? How does it earn those big bucks?
If you ask any avid Starbucks-goer how many of the company’s commercials they have seen, they will probably say “one” or “none.” Unlike most companies, Starbucks has not used a traditional technique of exposure to gain fans.
“It really is about connecting with someone in a more intimate, experiential way that we think will have longer lasting ability to build affinity than a 30-second TV commercial or an ad,” said Anne Saunders, senior vice president of marketing at Starbucks.
After solidifying its brand, Starbucks stuck with a local focus, becoming a “third home” to its communities. It relied on consistent service and quality to get people talking. And once they started talking, it seems they didn’t stop.
This word-of-mouth technique has served the company well in more ways than one. Not only has Starbucks been effective by separating itself from the mass of commercials and advertisements thrown at the public, but the technique itself lends Starbucks an air of sophistication. By not submitting to the hype of commercialism in its marketing, Starbucks demonstrated what it values: people rather than profit.
Starbucks’ mission statement is “to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” This statement explains why Starbucks operates the way it does. It is focused on the local, the individual and the service of one cup of coffee, rather than getting wrapped up in making a buck. (Though this strategy has earned them a few.)
For PR practitioners, this technique is good to keep in mind when creating campaigns for clients. More than that, we can glean an important overall lesson: It’s not always effective to do what everyone else is doing. Sometimes it’s not about keeping up with trends.
Think about what everyone else is doing. To beat them at it, you have to do it better. Alternatively, think about what they are not doing and give it a go. Going against trends garners creativity and can make you stand out even more.
In recent news, Starbucks has kicked off an image revitalization campaign for its 40th anniversary. This revamp included a new logo that it considers to be a “subtle but meaningful update.” Starbucks showcased its new logo in a tribute commercial that reinforces what Starbucks is all about: You!
While this message aligns with what Starbucks has always represented, the new logo has not gone over so smoothly. It has been called a “mid-life crisis.”
Has Starbucks peaked in its marketing genius? Here’s hoping (and I know all coffee lovers will cross their fingers with me) that Starbucks is here to stay.