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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Coffee and Conversation with Starbucks

First, I got started down this rabbit hole when Unique Frequency quoted a comment of mine in his post about Starbucks.

The post referenced Brand Autopsy's post about Starbucks returning CEO Howard Shultz and why he should blog. In addition to just that post, they have a whole series on how to solve Starbucks' problems. Obviously, he knows more about Starbucks than I do.

But, I am undeterred. I want to build on his post. Since I'm using this space for my own thought experiments about marketing, this felt like a good topic to tackle.

If you don't want to read the whole thing, here's the one liner:
Starbucks culture needs to change, the blog would only be the first step.

First, I want to nuance his argument that Shultz should start a blog. The Starbucks brand is based on the customers' experience on the ground, in the shops, coffee in hand. If Shultz starts a blog it should be for the purpose of being an example to the rest of the company to open lines of communication. As CEO he can effectively use his blog to broadcast what's happening on a corporate level but he's not going to be an interesting conversationalist for the people that want to know why ~their~ Starbucks doesn't meet their expectations.

Before I get too caught up in my own smrtness, let me present my research.

Looking over Jeremiah Owyang's Forms of Marketing list, he states under the Community Marketing and Social Marketing section

Remember this section is less about the tools than it is about the end result: people connecting with other people.
Shultz doesn't need to connect with every one of Starbucks' customers. He needs to facilitate a culture of community that encourages other people in the company to express the brand experience "everywhere customers expect [it] to be." That's a daunting task. But, it can be done.

Scott Shamberg talks about his brand experience with Disney as a case study. He says when talking about his daughter's 'princess makeover':
Each cast member would stop when they saw my daughter and say things like “Oh my, what a beautiful Princess.” Not some of the cast members. Every single one of them.
Granted, the Disney park is not quite the size of world-wide Starbucks operation. But Disney does have near infinite touchpoints happening as cast and customer mix constantly. Shultz talks in his press releases about re-building that experience. He's not going to be able to do it alone, in this case blogging would help increase the credibility in his commitment to this ideal.

Finally, I was just doing some research the other day on the concept of Third Place, and now Third Space. I question that Starbucks needs to compete for the online attention of their customers. But, if they are going to they should integrate them as tightly as they can with the Place customers are already familiar with.
  • Create aTwitter account that asks "What are you drinking"
  • Or get ambitious and create mutiple accounts based on regions so people get a better sense of place
  • Feed coffee orders to in-store monitors (randomize or time-delay to mitigate privacy concerns) that customers can use for discovery of new options
  • Get involved in social network groups
  • Create a blog network with local managers and outside voices
  • Get Creative!
Finally, Shultz should realize the incredible opportunities they have in the already passionate community that Starbucks has online. Starbucks doesn't need to re-invent the wheel or try to figure out their social strategy alone. They've got people already doing it for them.

Del.icio.us tag: Facilitating+Conversation

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