During the 'bucks blackout, competitors leapfrogged each other to deliver discount specialty drinks. Some, like Dunkin' Donuts, went all $0.99. Others, like Biggby Coffee and Coffee Klatch, gave cups away.
I'm reminded of an ad icon who felt great brands were never built on the lean backs of discounts. It lends the sense that your only means of differentiation is your cost. Discerning users in your market -- and if they stick around long enough, they all become discerning -- might take advantage of your discount once or twice, but over time they'll start veering away from you.
Nobody professes loyalty to a five-and-dime.
I'm prattling on about this discount/differentiation thing because Ken Wheaton at Ad Age thinks the 'bucks blackout served two major purposes (neither of which had to do with turning baristas into sages):
- Proving Schultz means business about a dramatic company overhaul
- Generating serious press
Starbucks isn't about cost. It's about quality. It's about you.
I used to be a Starbucks barista, back before baristas talked crap about customers in front of you and stole merch after hours. Corporate was downright dramatic about instilling a sense of sanctity in what we do for people. I totally drank the Kool-Aid.
Sometimes I miss the days when I stank of Breakfast Blend but was able to sincerely call SBUX my "third place."
Schultz, if you bring your little green empire back to basics -- serving samples out of a French press, learning the names of regulars, and making even non-purchasing loiterers feel welcome -- I honestly think you guys can bring the fire back.
You've always had the magic formula. Surprise, surprise! It wasn't breakfast sandwiches or copies of The Kite Runner. Just stop with this too-big-for-the-little-things nonsense.