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Planet Starbucks

StarbucksOn 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:

Experience transcends commodity
Starbucks Global Creative Director Stanley Hainsworth noted that when selling coffee the challenge is that the product is ubiquitous. Starbucks succeeds by connecting with customers personally. For example, he explained that baristas at each store memorize up to 200 customer names and what they drink, to promote a neighborhood feel. And all employees on the corporate side must work in a Starbucks store for a week as part of initial training. "It's more than just a product," Hainsworth said. "It's about creating an experience."



Dany, thanks for your post. I sense that Starbucks' strategy is less about getting people to stay in their shops for inordinate amounts of time (although that wouldn't be a bad thing), but more about resonating with their lifestyle. The ultimate win for a marketer is whan a consumer identifies with their brand attributes...and if Starbucks can move beyond the coffee beverage to resonate on different levels, then they'll have a stronger brand allegiance. I liken it to the approach Scion is taking with its club nights - complete with well-known DJs, urban art installations, and VIP parking for Scion owners(see

You've got a great blog yourself, btw!

Dany Kurian

Very good post...
My doubt is whether Startbucks wants customers to come and spend time at their shops or just buy coffee and leave. With majority os shops having limitred number of seats, the last thing they want is people buying an coffee and spending 2 hours in the shop.

Social relevance is a great marketing idea...but will have to balance the benefits with the cost to see whether this is the right strategy........

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