Josh Brage

The Church of Starbucks
August 2, 2007, 2:36 pm
Filed under: Morning, Whatever

Interesting post from my friend Brent

One of the great successes of the Starbucks franchise is that they have succeeded, not just in marketing a product, but an image and possibly even a community.

Starbucks is one of the few major companies that is fairly lenient about giving away their products. If you know someone who works at a Starbucks, chances are, you’ve received a free drink at one point or another. While this seems counter-productive to the more pragmatically minded folks, it actually makes great sense because when someone sees you walking around with the famously branded cup with a smile on your face, they’re going to want a coffee drink they didn’t realize they were craving until they saw yours.

Starbucks furnishes their facilities with comfortable couches and chairs and music. In other words, they’re not just selling a product, they’re selling an atmosphere. What’s interesting is that they are selling an atmosphere that is both welcoming and a bit intimidating. How many people knew what a “Barista” was before the Starbucks invasion? They use their own language and expect you to adapt, knowing that once you do, you’ll feel like part of the “in” crowd and the experience will be all the more meaningful to you.

In other words, while maintaining a welcoming environment, part of the appeal of the Starbucks experience is that they are (or were) “other,” they used words that other people didn’t use and they were making drinks that (at one time), no one else was. Instead of dumbing things down to make them mor “accesible,” Starbucks understood that part of the allure was the sense of being a bit different. Of course that no longer holds true as there is nearly a Starbucks or copycat on every corner, but Starbucks has, at least in a sense, helped set the standard for this trend.

As far-fetched as it might initially sound, I’m becoming convinced that part of what the success of Starbucks teaches us is that there is a balance between being “other” and welcoming. It does not have to be one or the other.

I excerpted, please be sure to read the whole thing.


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