Starbucks and the American Brand

Starbuck, the Ultimate Corporation

Starbucks, the Ultimate Corporation

Ian Trever posted a piece on a new Starbucks brand aiming to capture the “local” coffee shop vibe (as opposed to their own mega-corporate vibe).

He says:

What is most interesting to me, however, is that the opening of this store indicates the failure of Starbucks as a brand.  They have spent decades and millions (if not billions) of dollars to solidify Starbucks as your first thought upon hearing ‘coffee’ and it appears to have backfired.

Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, has been concerned with the over “commoditization of the Starbucks experience” for years but this shift seems to run deeper than corporate decisions that moved the coffee chain from an experience to a money making venture.  Instead, Starbucks has over-saturated their ideal market and, as a backlash, many people have–again–sought out the comfort of a locally owned, non-corporate coffee experience.  For many, the Starbucks brand holds no cache.

I posted in his comments section the following:

Starbucks represents the best and worst of corporate culture.  They honestly do have a good product, good service, and they’re decently priced. (they ain’t cheap, but what is anymore?)  As such, they’ve grown huge and profited considerably.  The nations coffee scene is probably better for their influence.  They brought (real) coffee to every town in America.

But, they succumbed to the magnetic pull of their own success.  I wouldn’t count them out, though.  They’re no fools.   I predict a resurgence.

But, I’d like to follow up by saying that here in Portland, Starbucks is looked down upon.  We already HAD a coffee culture before Starbucks showed up.  It came in like Walmart and has driven some mid-level businesses out.  And to top it off, anything that smacks of corporate culture is considered borderline evil.

That said, the small business coffee shop is still the most prominent type of business in Portland.   Starbucks never took over here like it did in most places.  Almost literally every block in Portland has a coffee shop OTHER than a Starbucks.  Sure, Starbucks is there too, but we drink so much damned coffee that we’ll just go to both.

I count 10 coffee shops within easy walking distance of my apartment.

My point?  If Starbucks can survive here, where competition is stiff, it can survive anywhere.


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