Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Starbucks Closing Stunt

Not really knowing the financial impact (positive or negative) of yesterday's Starbucks closing stunt, I find a few positive brand reinforcements established from the effort. First, the public sacrifice of revenue to improve service is a great way to differentiate their commitment to quality from new emerging competitors. Although many competitors seized the moment by offering discounts to their coffee products, the gesture may have lessened their value as a product and as a brand.

Second, the unusual amount of growth probably has created some human resource issues. When things are moving fast, employees often forget the reason behind the urgency to perform better than yesterday. This "drop anchor" approach presents a way for management and employees to reconnect and regroup on fulfilling the essentials of the Starbucks brand.

Finally, the claim for most of the down-time was espresso. I guess it would have been difficult to claim to be working on a better cup of coffee. Espresso, on the other hand, is not a mainstream product in comparison to their other offerings. However, there is some room for improvement, due to the process. I know what you're thinking, "I've never had espresso, but I want to see what the fuss is all about". I won't call you a sucker, but, well, you know.

For now, the store closing stunt has presented some great possibilities for Starbucks. They've shown a commitment to service, and a value for their employees skills and development. They've also highlighted an area of improvement, which can only be recognized by a small fraction of their customer base. The true measure of their success will happen today, when you walk in to get your usual latte or grande cup of coffee. Will you notice a difference - a difference that says, "I get it"? I hope the marketing and PR folks at Starbucks have planned this exercise to produce something tangible for customers for the next few weeks. If so, the battle will have been won for the day. If not, the competitors have an opportunity to make up some much-needed ground.

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