business news in context, analysis with attitude

Good piece in Advertising Age - of all places - suggesting that Starbucks may have made a mistake in believing that a new television campaign could help it attract new customers and generate new sales: “Maybe what it needs is a real-world idea that could actually get people to buy and share more coffee: a Starbucks happy hour.

“Think about it: It's late afternoon. The post-lunch latte sales have tapered off. All across America, people who crave a little cheer are thinking about going out for a beer. But beer is fattening, and you shouldn't drink and drive anyway. If Starbucks could change our culture once and make us believe ‘frappuccino’ is a word, why can't it try again, this time by convincing us that Starbucks is the place to go after work?”

Ad Age goes on: “To bridge the gap between bar and cafe culture, Starbucks could even serve special happy-hour coffees that echoed real drinks, by spiking them with rum- or Kahlúa-flavored, nonalcoholic syrups. And at least some of the drinks could be twofers, to encourage that whole giving thing.

“The bigger idea, however, would be not just to perk up afternoon business but to perk up Starbucks, period. Make it fun again! A cool place to go! A pleasure, as opposed to an addiction.”

KC's View:
As an avowed and addicted Starbucks customer, I have to say that this is a pretty interesting idea.

All retailers can benefit from changing things up every once in a while, and this idea actually has the benefit of taking advantage of Starbucks’ position as a cultural icon. And the good news for Starbucks is that it could test the notion in isolated locations, giving the idea the patina of a local initiative.

That is, by the way, something that Starbucks does extremely well – and for real. Visiting a Starbucks in Ridgefield, Connecticut, yesterday, I was intrigued by the lengthy and even poetic endorsement of a Christmas music CD that was written on a chalkboard near the barista station. Curious, I asked if the missive had been dictated by headquarters, or if had been done by someone in the store…and was told that it was the latter.

I’m just guessing, but I have to believe that this store will sell more of the CDs than other Starbucks. I bought one. Couldn’t resist. That’s often what happens when a company empowers its employees to indulge their creativity.