Help Starbucks Get Its Groove Back


Starbucks_cup Where oh where is the heart and soul of Starbucks? How can Starbucks get its groove back?

johnmoore, Brand Autopsy, wants to help out his pals at Starbucks. He sent a few bloggy pals the following email this afternoon -

  • I’m sure you’ve heard about the leaked Howard Schultz memo to key Starbucks executives.  In this memo, Howard derides decisions the company has made in order to grow.  Howard closes the email by asking his executive team to get smarter about the business and to get more innovative to once again differentiate Starbucks.
  • Taking blatant inspiration from Seth Godin’s WHAT MUST GOOGLE DO ebook done a few years ago, I’m doing a WHAT MUST STARBUCKS DO ebook.  It’ll be totally free and posted somewhere online for all to download.  And just as Seth did, I’ve asked people to send me their ideas on what Starbucks must do to become the company it once was.  The crux of this ebook will be the ideas generated by the "Starbucks Board of Customers."

Here's what I sent johnmoore -

Thanks for asking me to play along .. Here's my 2 cents, which we know won't even buy the opportunity for a deep breath of java aroma at SB. Ooops.. there is none!

Starbucks built its success on the warmth of the experience more so than the excellence of the coffee. The neighborhood coffee shop where "everyone knows your name" or your coffee of choice must begin with the baristas and ends with the baristas. The in between details are the foam on the java that should reinforce the sense of local community.

My suggestions to would begin at marketing 101 - understanding your customers and their needs. That might result in jazz nights with area musicians or cookies from an area bakery instead of a corporate buy. Or it might mean a play area for kids with moms in one city or more outlets for laptops in another neighborhood.  It might even mean giving up some of the 'corporate' cookie cutter standardization. I wonder if  Starbucks is really ready to "be" that neighborhood shop once again?

If you want to play along all the details are on the What Must Starbucks Do post at Brand Autopsy.


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Starbucks built their brand off of the excellence of the coffee just as much as they did the experience. Think back to when they first started. In many cities and towns you could not get rich, dark coffee like what they serve. Starbucks started a major evolution in the quality of coffee. The other major component of their success, which is not to be overlooked, is the standardization of their product. Customers always know what to expect when they go in a store to order their favorite beverage. They don't always know what to expect when they go into a mom and pop shop.

Posted by: Robert Payne on Feb 28, 2007 12:28:08 PM

Can we start with free WiFi? I'm finding I need it first and caffeine second!

Posted by: john harper on Feb 28, 2007 4:36:48 PM

Robert -
You make a good point. I was looking at it thru the experience of growing up in Boston/Cambridge where there were wonderful coffee houses and we thought Dunkies was pretty good too ;-)

To me Caribou Coffee is more in line with a company that has slightly different interiors from store-to-store well but maintains consistency in terms of product and service as good (or better) than SB

Posted by: Toby on Feb 28, 2007 6:30:00 PM

John - Great point. I don't get why free wifi isn't SOP for all coffee shops and airports. And don't forget sufficient outlets too.

Posted by: Toby on Feb 28, 2007 6:31:58 PM

As soon as they put in the automatic espresso makers, I was finished with Starbucks. I don't have time to attend jazz nights at the coffee shop, and frankly I would be horrified if they suddenly had play centers on the premises, a la McDonalds.

I want good coffee, and a barista who knows how to pull a shot. Starbucks feels like a gimmick now, and their product is horrible.

Posted by: Jennifer Jeffrey on Mar 2, 2007 11:28:33 AM

Gosh durn I wish they would turn off the loud music. I can't even hear myself think when I work there. So much for the on-the-road office space for road warriors. At least Caribou is somewhat quiet!!!!

Posted by: kirsten on Mar 2, 2007 11:42:47 AM

Jennifer - No kids for you .. but perhaps SB is in a neighborhood where moms end up after taking their kids to the park. Or maybe SB is located in an area know for artists and musicians. Or maybe there are a group of people who stop by to discuss local restaurants or politics. What I'm saying is the 'coffee shop landscape' has changed since SB entered the scene. There are more and more shops serving great coffee. Hey, even McD's is getting into the act. Would I drive thru McD's for my am java fix .. perhaps. Would I spend time at a McD's drinking my coffee and writing my latest blog post .. probably not.

That you feel SB is a gimmick is telling. I'm saying pull away the gimmicks and listen to what the people in the community want. And if it's a series of political candidates or a local artist who reads poetry it could be the way to get back to the authenticity that it seems to have lost.

By the way, love your blog and enjoyed your beautiful writing.

Kristin - BTW I like Caribou better too - coffee and experience!

Posted by: Toby on Mar 2, 2007 11:58:52 AM

Customer service!!! The bored ,rude multipierced goth teenagers are a far cry from the "baristas" we all fell in love with. Now the automated machines, mind numbing music and (frequently) sloppy sitting areas are not a draw! I never used to mind the time it took to wait for a quality drink-now you can get the same cookie cutter beverage most anywhere else and with faster,markedly more pleasant service

Posted by: POLLI on Mar 2, 2007 12:03:09 PM

Starbucks can't do the indie coffee shop. They're Starbucks, plain and simple. That's what they're good at. Let the other shops like Vail local Coyote Cafe ( do the indie thing.

Posted by: Ed Grimes on May 7, 2007 11:31:56 PM

Can we start with free WiFi? I'm finding I need it first and caffeine second!

Posted by: martin on Jul 19, 2007 4:55:34 AM

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