Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Will Starbucks be a pub soon?

Here is what I think happened. Starbucks had someone research the eating and drinking habits of its customers. They found that many Starbucks customers also drink wine and a good fraction drinks beer. So why can’t you also sell these drinks to them? Well, it would work if the customers would come back at a different time, on a different occasion that is. May be that will happen. And if it did I would still like to think of the same customer on different occasions as a different customer because the experience that they seek is different. I sort of imagine a cup of coffee at Starbucks, when it is not to go, as being an occasion for a little quiet computing or reading, or an informal business meeting. An occasion with wine brings other things to mind. It is also possible that the new menu brings in customers new to Starbucks. That will require some managing because they may or may not like to drink wine where coffee is the main event, so to speak. And then there are issues of space and whether audible conversations are good or bad. When I was at Starbucks in downtown Sydney what struck me was the two-storey layout that had oodles of space and possibilities for quiet corners. I can see that wine and beer would work well in such places not the least because of the tourist traffic. But for my neighborhood Starbucks in Dallas the bigger worry should be not that there will be no takers for wine or beer but how that will affect the brand meaning for customers: a place to get coffee and a little work done or a place for a drink with buddies. The challenge for Starbucks is no different from what it is for other companies – how to sell more – but in that quest now the casualty might well be what the brand means to its customers.


Subbu said...

Loved this post and also the blog. Branding Agencies in India are also catching up with the West. Lets hope a war and more creativity.

christy said...

I am a big Starbucks fan, and I also am a beer and wine drinker, but I do not see myself thinking of Starbucks when I want to go have a glass of wine or beer. I know their ultimate goal is to be the “third place” – work, home and Starbucks – but I am not so sure this type of product offering will help them achieve that goal but rather possibly alienate some of the current customers who like you said want to get coffee and maybe sit for a while reading or working. Instead, they could increase customer traffic during slow times by adding some type of special event offering like live acoustical music or something that would be more keeping with their current “experience.” Personally I do not think this is going to work.