Hey Barista – Slow It Down, Would Ya?

Here is a great example of how strong brands get even stronger by knowing and listening to their customers.

The post below details how Starbucks, arguably one of the strongest brands out there today, is looking to brand extensions to increase store activity and to further deliver on their promise of being a destination to their customers.

While entering the cheese and wine market is all fine and good, what is most impressive about this article is the link at the bottom to the other story about how Starbucks is asking their baristas to slow down. At first glance, this is counter-intuitive to what we think a retail food chain with a drive through window should be. But kudos to Starbucks for recognizing that getting their order fast is not important for all their customers.

For Starbucks, the barista IS the Starbucks Experience. Always has been. Go into any Starbucks and try to stump the barista with a drink they cannot make. It usually cannot be done. Combine their coffee-making expertise with their knack for remembering their regular customer’s favorite drink and you have the Starbucks Experience. In the end, it is not the chairs but the barista that makes the difference.

When you walk into a Starbucks, you are fully immersed into the brand. The aroma, the music, the comfy chairs. It is all around you. But that is just the atmosphere. The interactive part of the brand is the barista. So automating this crucial brand touchpoint for customers inside the store is a total disconnect.

People in the drive through, however, have a different expectation of the Starbucks brand. They want their drink made to order and delivered fast so that there is not a back-up at the drive through. That is only way for the drive through customers to rate the Starbucks Experience.

Hats off to Starbucks for keeping the customer in mind and understanding key touchpoints.

Now, can we go back to the olden days when the barista would write the name of the drink on the cup with a Sharpie instead of slapping a pre-printed label on the outside?

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It’s Just Too Loud Being Green

People say they want green options.  They want cars that can go 100 miles on a single gallon of gas.  They want their water heated by the sun and they want all their garbage to be bio-degradable.  But only if people don’t have to deviate from their norm.  In other words, don’t make it inconvenient. 

Over the years, there has been a clammoring by consumers for companies to become more green.  As consumers, we feel it is our moral obligation to force companies to make choices that improve their “greenness”.   We feel that if we can help large companies do the right thing then 1) we don’t have to or 2) we can support them better.

Well, about 18 months ago, Frito-Lay decided to create the world’s first chip bag that is bio-degradable for their SunChips bag.   Consumers cheered the effort.  The only problem with the new bag was that it was noisy.  Really noisy. 

Sun Chips Compostable Bag

Sun Chips Compostable Bag

Of course, the Marketers at Frito-Lay said that this was a good thing.  It showed consumers that they were different from the other brands in the snack aisle.  A perfect storm of brand differentiation and consumer / eco-friendly response.  They said that people would talk about the bag and sales would take off because the novelty of the bag would entice trial.

They were partly right.  People did talk about it.  Just look no further than Facebook where you can find a group called “Sorry But I Can’t Hear You Over This SunChips Bag.”  And as for sales, SunChips sales have declined more than 11% over the past 52 weeks. 

Because of this, Frito-Lay has buried the compostable bag on all but one of their SunChip flavors.  So here is an example of how even when a company has all great supporting data, makes the right decisions trying to do the right thing and deliver what their customers want, they can still lose. 

What we need to remember when we are stepping out of the box is that Karma is not always on our side.  Consumers frequently contradict themselves.  For example, while most mothers say they want “greener packaging,” in the products that they purchase for their families, they are also are the biggest purchasers of single-serve chip bags.  Go figure.

Hats off to Frito-Lay for being the first to take a step in the right direction.  Being green isn’t easy.  Nor is being the first.  For those of us who commend brands who take risks, listen to their consumers and be innovative, a little noise is always a good thing.

Apple does the right thing

The strength of strong brand is to always do the right thing and to put values over profits. 

Apple recently did just that when they announced the “Freedom From Porn.” 

That’s how Apple CEO Steve Jobs describes his company’s policy not to allow applications (apps) featuring pornographic content to run on its products.  And Apple’s been putting its balance sheet where its public relations are, removing approximately 5,000 apps with explicit material from the iTunes store earlier this year. 

Steve Jobs has been accused of being “anti-freedom” to which he responded, “Yep, freedom from programs that steal your private data.  Freedom from programs that trash your battery.  Freedom from porn.  Yep, freedom.” 

He also said, “Users, developers, and publishers can do whatever they like—they don’t have to buy or develop or publish on iPads.  I have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone.”

Feeling the pressure started by Apple, Microsoft is following suit.  Soon after this announcement, the company announced that the new Windows 7 mobile software will not allow apps with content that “a reasonable person would consider to be adult or borderline adult.” 

If other electronic companies likewise get the message that a large chunk of consumers would welcome the kind of liberty as Jobs describes, we may soon have more freedom to use technology without fear of being inundated by images that debase sexuality. 

It is an awesome feeling to know that one of the most powerful brands – a brand that is in the hands of all of our kids, our teachers, our sports heros and role models – has taken a stand to support faith and morality. 

Thanks Steve for once again, setting the bar high so others follow.

Life Is Good (without advertising)

Conventional wisdom says that in order to be successful, you need to spend millions advertising your brand.   The wildy successful Life Is Good brand says otherwise. 

According to this article at Marketing Daily, that is not always true. 

Life Is Good is just a t-shirt company.  Just a $100MM+ t-shirt company that is dedicated to selling a positive attitude and being involved on a local level – where their customers are.  Life Is Good demonstrates how having a strong brand and aligning yourselves to what you stand for is the true key to success. 

The question is, how much advertising dollars can your company save if only your brand was stronger?  The world’s best brands emotionally connect with people.  The Life Is Good brand connects with people’s desire to be positive.  They have a quality product that is also reasonably priced (probably because they don’t have large advertising budgets in which to prove ROI).

People get that.  And Life Is Good.