Monday, October 5, 2009

Starbucks’ miss-firing in lots of places

Between Saturday and Monday and I visited 4 different Starbucks® stores. The first two just happened to be on my way for the regular things I was doing over the weekend. And the experience piqued my curiosity so I went out of my way to visit 2 more.

In what appears a desperate attempt to grab-back some market share in the slowing commercial coffee shop business, Starbucks launched Via® their new instant coffee brand this weekend. And they launched it with a huge presence and an equally large challenge: come taste-compare brewed coffee with our instant because we bet you can’t tell the difference. AND you can have a free cup of coffee just for taking the challenge.

Around Sonoma County, CA, I found the Starbucks’ engine frequently miss-firing. I visited the first store for one of the tea/lemonade drinks. I didn’t want coffee but was curious about the promotion. The displays were in place—and no tasting opportunity. I was surprised, the employees didn’t even offer the option when I placed my order. Huh. Maybe it was just that store.

Next morning, David and I specifically stopped at another store because we actually wanted to take the taste challenge. Hanging with a wine guy ( usually means tasting and trying things gets done. Well, once again, big obvious display (it’s VERY orange!) and no offer or opportunity to compare tastes. I was now beyond curious, I felt a little annoyed: lots of hype, and nothing happening at the “ground” level.

So this morning on the way into the office, I stopped at two different locations about 20 minutes apart. (All the stores I visited were standalone operations and not in another retailer location.) The first one actually HAD the tasting station open and operating. (Sidebar—I did pick the brewed coffee for what it was. HA!) The second one however, did not. And we’re talking prime Monday morning coffee traffic time.

What do I want us all to learn from this? Friends, if you’re going to make an offer, make it happen! Don’t cook up some offer, program, or scheme and drop it. Not only will people be confused, they’ll be so annoyed they just might write about on a blog you’ll never even see! One of the mistakes people make in small business or practice is “ad libbing” things when talking to someone who seems interested and not actually following through on their words.

This Starbucks challenge was an expensive marketing campaign with a lot of visibility. My predominant experience of this massive exposure: carelessness and a lackadaisical implementation of a strategy smelling of desperation. I’d much rather go to my local coffee shop, Golden Bean in Rohnert Park, and after this little experiment, my commitment to support this fun, hip, funky local store with fabulous coffee has gotten even stronger. Big corporate made public promises and did not deliver. Whatever tiny pip of loyalty I had to a brand primarily built on ubiquity is down to nil or less. Please don’t make the same mistakes with your precious clients! Deliver what you promise!

Wishing you Success & Heart,

Heidi Sue

1 comment:

  1. Heidi, Thank you for your curiosity, intelligence, follow through and willingness to share your expertise and experience. Jackie