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April 05, 2007


In February, I asked you to submit ideas for what Starbucks must do to reclaim its uniqueness ... to better connect with customers ... and to become the coffee company it once was. Your ideas, along with a few of mine, have been turned into a ChangeThis! Manifesto.

(Of course the motivation for this project came from Howard Schultz’s leaked email in which he expressed concern Starbucks is in danger of losing its soul, its uniqueness—its remarkability.)

Thanks to everyone who submitted their ideas. Not all submissions made it into the manifesto, but a good chunk of them did. Take pride everyone. You shared many great ideas that Starbucks would be wise to follow-up on.

Read the manifesto by clicking below …

*** Or, just click here. ***

If your appetite for mulling over Starbucks strategies is insatiable, you should review the series of posts Paul Williams and I did last month. We talked strategies, tactics, and shared some insider knowledge based upon our combined 19-years of marketing experience at Starbucks. Start here and work your way backward. Or, start here and work your way forward.


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» Starbucks: Change it or loseit. from areopagitica
A little background: In early February, Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz wrote a memo to CEO Jim McDonald on The Commoditization of the Starbucks Experience (which you can read here) in which he rightfully warned that the company was in ... [Read More]

» Ideas for Starbucks and maybe for your business too from The Services Pundit
John Moore, marketing blogger and self-proclaimed Starbucks junkie, just published his ChangeThis Manifesto titled What Must Starbucks Do? in response to that leaked memo from Chairman Howard Schultz. Some of the highlights... [Read More]


I think that companies tend to get a little complacent. They think that because they have a following that they don't need to perform as they once did.

Once you stop trying to improve, you start to lose your connection with your customers and your customers will start to seek the venues that can provide them the emotional connection they want to have.

Killer job, John. Simply killer. I'm sitting here shaking me head, though, because I wonder if it's a little like pissing into the wind. We'll see if anything comes of this. I have to wonder if Starbucks is open to outside influence -- even yours, despite your history with them -- or if they think they are supposed to have all the answers from within.

The ebook looks great!

Thanks fellas ... the ebook did turn out nicely. I really like the design work ChangeThis! did. The playful cover rocks. And the ideas expressed in the pages from readers of this blog also ROCK. Thanks to everyone involved for making this manifesto happen.

I have a lot of respect for Starbucks, they did invent the concept of a "third place" between work and home and coffee as an experience after all.

Having said that, I think they need to update their image- now that all coffee bars are all about "brand experiences", there's not much differentiation in my humble opinion.

Starbucks didn't invent a third place, though they certainly did recognize it and popularize the idea, for which they were/are well compensated.

The interesting thing is that no one in Seattle goes to Starbucks. It's seen as way too commercial.

And while I don't agree with that to a Seattle degree, there are some cafes in Seattle that crush Starbucks on just about every count.

It used to be that you'd be sacrificing a little cleanliness or service (or light), but that's increasingly not the case. If you ever get the chance try Terafazzione in Pioneer Square or Vivace on Broadway--I don't even drink the stuff anymore and I can still taste how sweet they are without any sugar. True artisans. Tastes nothing like SB.

I believe I spoke with you about a similar topic regarding Whole Foods, John. If you don't have a silver bullet, you don't have a silver bullet. And that includes being a little bit fancy. A city like Seattle is littered with designers who could pull off twice the high touch of WF or Starbucks.

The future is in art.

Laugh now, but once the internet crashes prices for mass content (witness the music industry), price differentiation will become omnipresent if for no other reason than to organize the junk.

And once artists can make movies, books and music profitably for niches (read people with money) their earnings will rise astronomically. They'll control the Pradas, the Time Warners, etc. instead of the Phat Farms, Roc-a-Wears, etc.

Media dominance will be replaced by content creation dominance. All non creative and/or nostalgic content (the so-called long tail) will be basically free.

And, the artists be the only ones with differentiation--with a silver bullet. Everyone else just stamping out better material goods and providing more tailored experiences. Both totally replicable.

Certain brands first appeal to consumers because of their ethos but once they reach a certain level of success they are then rejected as people start to view their success as excessive greed and evil profiteering.

Let's face it, there is a huge anti-capitalist movement in this country and throughout the world and highly successful companies are targets. Highly successful American brands are even bigger targets.

Brands like Wal-mart and Starbucks are polarizing and many people love to hate them purely because they represent capitalist success and large profits. Starbucks especially is seen as a symbol of affluence. Within the anti-capitalist movement, brand success = profits = consumerism = materialism = evil.

What is a brand to do when they build a brand that people embrace and make successful and then turn on it the moment it becomes successful?

What Starbucks will not overcome is the fervor and commitment of this anti-corporate, anti-capitalist movement. Once a company is seen as very successful and profitable, it is then seen as an evil extorter, morally bankrupt and something with which to "get even", knock down to size or destroy.

This becomes a little more scary when it is toyed with at the highest levels of government. "Excessive greed on Wall Street" -- now just what do you think is being talked about?

I wish Starbucks all the best but it will be an uphill battle. It almost matters not what you do at this point, people will simply hate you because you've been successful.

We (this nation and others) just recently lost a very large part of our reality described by many as discretionary spending. It equaled 80% of our GDP. Basically people just spending money, much of it on credit. Foreclosures and bankruptcies,ie. loss of jobs and careless spending both for individuals (families) and corporations ( large and small)account for much of this evaporation of our foundation (a foundation built upon sand and not of rock). We have very little industrial might.

Now many individuals are simply applying what money they (if any) have to the basic needs of daily living. I am very unimpressed by John Moore in his current meanderings for solutions to a problem so big that to grasp the magnitude (of this problem and problems) is almost impossible. For instance (one quadrillions) on the derivative market which was never regulated, so basically no oversight. NOW we (this nation and the world) are in deep, very very deep shit.

John you think to much and much of your thinking is not based on (current) reality. Many are broke and stress to the max and a cup of coffee from any company such as Starbucks doesn't count when you are in the survival mode. What Starbucks really needs is someone to help them trim their budget by cutting cost to the bone. Yes you will loose customers that (given current conditions) would not be their anyway. A prayer or two would not hurt either.

Large and small companies are going belly-up each and almost ever day in this environment of very little discretionary spending, it (this environment) will last longer and even get worse. Cutting cost and hopefully maintaining quality is not going to be easy for anyone company. Look at GM and Ford, their basically dead but simply want stop breathing. Starbucks profit loss of 97% spells "The End". Maybe their is a chance but (your reality approach) is not part of what is really happening. I hope and pray that Starbucks will come through this (long term) crisis.

Gene ... you have the benefit of hindsight vision. When this manifesto was published 18-months ago, we didn't have the benefit of having hindsight vision. We didn't know the US economy would be in a free-fall. We now know. And I am sure some of the advice given in this manifesto would change.

However, much of the advice given in the manifesto is about a core business model of being employee focused and customer focused. That's a strategy that is sure to win more than lose over the long-haul. Keep in mind, Starbucks was a growth business for 37 YEARS. That's a great ride.

As you know, things ebb and flow. Companies grow and retract. Economies grow and retract. Starbucks has a 37-YEAR ride of growth because they followed the path of being employee focused and customer focused. Not a bad strategy.

Well my last comment did not get through so, this will be short and ugly, not what I say but the times we live in. It doesn't matter that Starbucks was on steroids for the last 37 years, foolish to even make that ridicules statement. READ MY LIPS (JUST KIDDING) THESE ARE UNPARALLELED TIMES THAT THE WORLD HAS NEVER SEEN ON THIS SCALE. Read the post above me, he knows, "at this point it doesn't matter what you do". Good luck, you will see eventually just like me, it will scare the living hell out of you.

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