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A “watered down” Starbucks February 25, 2007

Posted by Stacey Swift in brand, Retail.

Everyone knows and loves Starbucks. Its comforting to know that in most places, not Lewisburg, PA, you know you can get a great Starbucks cup of coffee, late, cappachino, etc. about every few blocks. I was just talking to my friend from Portland, she told me that in their large 5 story mall there are 2 Starbucks on each floor! Thats 10 in one building! I know I have 3 in my mall, I also have one in my grocery store at home, as well as a free standing Starbucks right next to my grocery store! Isn’t this a bit excessive?

“In order to achieve the growth, development and scale necessary to go from less than 1,000 stores to 13,000 stores and beyond, we have had to make a series of decisions that, in retrospect, have lead to the watering down of the Starbucks experience, and, what some might call the commoditization of our brand,” Howard Schultz.

Schultz now believes this rapid growth “watered down their iconic brand.” Does Starbucks still retain its strong brand name or has it just become run of the mill coffee? I know I love Starbucks coffee, and since I cannot enjoy a steamy cup here in lburg I look forward to Starbucks when I go home. That being said, I do believe the vast number of stores throughout the nation has commodizied the brand. The article mentions their cookie-cutter design of their stores. Starbucks are great, but they are all the same. This past summer I studied abroad in Europe, and I grew to love the small local cafes where you could get a great cup of coffee and enjoy a unique atmosphere. Each cafe was different and great. Now I have come enjoy smaller coffee shops, such as Zeldas. I agree that quantity of Starbucks stores has jaded people. The article mentioned the cookie-cutter stores, so I immediately thought, what about franchising Starbucks? I looked it up and Starbucks does not franchise to individuals. Do you think franchising could help this problem? I think it could help them get away from the monontonous store layouts. It would make each store a little different and they could cater towards local tastes like McDonalds does.

Do you think the Starbucks brand has been watered down? What can they do to improve their brand name? Should they franchise?



1. Stephanie - February 25, 2007

I am actually not much of a coffee drinker. Only resort to it on long drives and during finals, but I certainly have been to plenty of Starbucks shops before. I agree that the cookie-cutter environment is not nearly as nice as smaller Mom and Pop shops. I wonder though even if Starbucks shops were franchised, whether the owners would be allowed to make choices regarding the furniture, color schemes or layout of the store. I would think that like McDonald’s, very specific regulations would be mandated and in fact there would still be little room for individuality.

On that note though, without variation customers are more likely enjoy their beverages each time without worry that the drink will taste different (or bad) because of the specific employee who made it.

I guess the overall debate is what the individual values – a unique experience or a consistent experience.

2. Elaine - February 25, 2007

I believe that Starbucks will eventually move most local businesses out of their communities. It is popular and serves good coffee (even if it is a bit pricier), with a classic environment where everybody knows what to expect. Some may say that Starbucks is overrated in this sense, but I feel our society has become very accepting to this specific atmosphere and is going to be around to dominate for awhile.

3. Lady - February 26, 2007

I agree with Stephanie that franchising Starbucks could possibly lead to experiencing a “different” Starbucks, in regards to taste and quality. I know that I have experience this at certain Wendy’s. There are some Wendy’s locations that I just won’t go to because their food taste different, and even bad.

While I am not a big coffee drinker, I don’t think that the many locations that Starbucks has in too excessive and is “watering down” their brand. It seems that the consumers don’t mind and they come in flocks to get a cup of Starbucks. Therefore, Starbucks is simply taking advantage of this huge demand by increasing their supply (dramatically, I guess!) In my opinion, I don’t think that Starbucks needs to improve their brand name because it seems to be pretty strong as of now.

4. K.C. - February 26, 2007

I think that Starbucks serves a great product and has a very strong following in major cities across the U.S. However, I think they also have a very large anti-Starbucks sentiment that is more prevalent in smaller towns and while they have the potential to grow even larger I think they need to work on their brand image. I don’t think Starbucks will become watered down if they expand because they are a very self regulated company. However, if they were to franchise stores then they might have issues controlling quality.

5. Abby - February 27, 2007

I LOVE Starbucks. While the local coffee shop feeling is nice, I like knowing that wherever I go, I can find the same cup of coffee. I do think that 10, in the same building, or even more than 1 in the same mall is a bit excessive.

In high school, a friend of mine worked at Starbucks. Once a year (during the holiday season) they make a terrific Gingerbread Latte. She kept a bottle of the syrup under the counter so that I was able to have a Gingerbread Latte everytime I was in Starbucks, and it lasted through February!!!

Starbucks is due to open on Route 15 very soon, I’m looking forward to it. Starbucks don’t just sell coffee and snacks, but they are now starting to promote music and books too.

6. wilson7 - February 27, 2007

I think that Starbucks would be a better place if they franchised the stores like Mc Donalds. It would appeal more to the individual in that region then just the overall experience of everyone that walks into any Starbucks across the United States. Franchising to an individual would benefit the company and make it more profitable then it already is.

7. Brian Mulligan - February 28, 2007

I agree with the franchising of Starbucks. It was orginally based out of the pacific northwest and began as a mom and pop store. I also think that there are many different regional taste with coffee as there are with many other mainstream products. If they allowed for franchising, then each would be able to aling themselves with the taste of the region. It would boost the overall quality and create more unique feeling at each store.

8. breichen - February 28, 2007

I was not surprised to see that in Abby’s post she mentioned the opening of a new Starbuck’s on Route 15. I am wondering if it’s going to be a drive-through, as I have noticed a trend in Starbucks opening more freestanding stores rather then adding to the abundance of strip mall outlets. This would be a smart move as busy professionals and soccer moms would be more inclined to stop for a $10 cup of coffee if they didn’t have to take the time and get out of their car. Perhaps they can introduce a drive through service fee, making a cup of joe even more expensive.

9. Jordi - April 13, 2007

A $10 cup of coffee? Do they exist?

Stacey: Who is the Schultz you quote above?

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