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November 11, 2004

Starbucks Fourth Place

Hi. My name is johnmoore and I am addicted to the Starbucks Gossip blog.

I’m addicted because as a former long-time Starbucks partner (employee), I am fascinated by the conversations which take place between brand supporters, brand detractors, cheerleading Starbucks partners, and cynical Starbucks partners.

The recent conversation (here and here) on Starbucks donating 50,000 pounds of coffee to US Troops stationed in Iraq has sparked some intense debate.

Company policy, as I knew it, has always been that Starbucks tries to avoid donating to causes with political or religious connections. Exceptions are made, especially at the store level, but Starbucks has typically been very consistent in not trying to alienate customers by showing support for polarizing and divisive areas like politics and religion. This particular instance of donating coffee to the US Troops is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. How can a company show support for the Troops without showing support for the war? (Hmm … good fodder for all.)

And there is the recent conversation about Starbucks playing Christmas music beginning on November 8. Again … lots of great debate from evangelists, vigilantes, cheerleaders, and cynics. Knowing how careful and protective Starbucks is about managing its reputation, I’m enjoying the free-flowing conversation about the Holiday promotion at Starbucks.

To give you some background, Starbucks has typically started its Holiday retail promotion the week before Thanksgiving. The rationale has been the company wants to make sure customers have enough opportunity to pick up some Christmas Blend to enjoy on Thanksgiving Day.

As for the Holiday music … Starbucks has learned customers don’t really notice the festive Holiday signage but they do notice the festive music. (Seriously, customer research has shown Starbucks customers recall the Holiday music more than any other in-store element. So what is up with all the in-store Holiday signage then? Good question.) Getting a jumpstart on the Holiday shopping season is critical to Starbucks because the company derives a SIGNIFICANT percentage of yearly sales in the matter of just six or seven weeks.

But I digress … back to the Starbucks Gossip blog.

I am enjoying how the grassroots Starbucks community has created a Fourth Place. As you know, Starbucks takes great pride in how its stores are the ‘Third Place’ (with ‘First Place’ being the home and ‘Second Place’ being the office). And now, it looks like the people have created the Starbucks Fourth Place ... on the Starbucks Gossip blog.

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