On the heels of being named one of the most influential brands of 2005, Starbucks has announced plans to make itself even more relevant in our lives: soon, shop visitors will be able to load up their MP3 players with new songs when they stop to buy a coffee. The chain is adding this service - in addition to its existing music CDs for sale - at the request of its customers, according to Ken Lombard, president of Starbucks Entertainment.
It's so interesting to watch this coffee brand morph into a entire lifestyle. People will wait in the longest of lines at this place...and it's ok: something about the Starbucks experience makes you feel relaxed, and you'll gladly wait your turn (not so at Dunkin Donuts, whose long lines move more quickly but seem frantic and stressful by comparison).
Starbucks' original success stemmed from its ability to turn the morning coffee break into a destination experience. Sure, the coffee is tasty, but it's about the whole Starbucks experience...the comfy chairs, the background music, the frothing noise from the cappuccino machines. People no longer just stop by in the morning on the way into work, they come back around 3 for the afternoon pick-me-up.
Then Starbucks added WI-FI, and it became an acceptable spot for "meetings." Business travelers and local workers alike will meet at the Starbucks for a cup of java and a brainstorm.
Next, they introduced dating. Brilliant! Find another coffee-lover on Yahoo! Personals, and meet at the local Starbucks for a chat. They even developed a cobranded site with Yahoo! where singles can find dating advice, locate the nearest Starbucks, and pick up a $10 Starbucks gift card for subscribing to Yahoo! Personals.
And just last week, they announced a partnership with Lionsgate Films to promote its new film, Akeelah and the Bee (via cup-warmers and a trailer on the chain’s in-store Wi-Fi network), and plans to add a few select books and DVDs to their existing CD collection.
Experiential marketing doesn't get much better than this. Can't wait to see what they do next.
UPDATE: In their April 17, 2006 newsletter, Peppers and Rogers note the following aspect of Starbucks' efforts to create an experience: