There is a much talked about trait of our culture that we love to see a fall from grace. When something gets too successful, we like to see it brought back to earth. I wrote a little bit about it a couple of years ago.
My case today? Starbucks. I admit it. I have made fun of being able to see three different Starbucks within 20 yards. I have wondered how many stores could possibly be supported. But also, I have gone to Starbucks in England, Frankfurt and virtually every other city I have visited in the last 10 years, if available.
Sure, people complain that it’s too corporate. That local coffee shops are way better, and that Starbucks is to coffee what Disney is to the real world. Whatever. They make good coffee and I like it.
Starbucks is recognized as having ridiculous growth for years. Like, way too much ridiculous growth for too many years. Metro corners, grocery stores, airports, shopping malls, drive thrus… anywhere people moving or sitting may want coffee. More locations than McDonalds?
Speaking of McDonalds (smooth segway…), the home of the Big Mac wants to take on Starbucks by selling “designer” coffee. So, McDonalds sees an opportunity. It has a launched a full radio and billboard campaign going right at Starbucks.
“Four Bucks is Dumb”
“Espresso Served Cold, Not Snobby”
And radio commercials that have some kind of message about coffee and intelligence not going together or something. Not sure.
And earlier this year, when the financial woes, employee training and store closure plans were reported, one would expect that people would be hooting and hollering that it’s about time Starbucks falls.
But, No. People are vying for their Starbucks! The day after I heard about the campaigns to save the neighborhood Starbucks scheduled for closure, my wife casually mentions she is going to avoid McDonald’s coffee because of the bad ad campaign (shouldn’t be too hard, since we don’t hit McDonald’s too much, but she said it none the less).
So I think Starbucks is turning the cultural trait on its head. People like their coffee, and appreciate their Starbucks. And besides: McDonald’s, the epitome of American fast food, thinks the public will rebel against Starbucks, the biggest coffee chain in the world. If anything, Coffee drinkers are rebelling to neighborhood coffee shops. They’re not going to trade one mass-market venue for another.