Consider the challenge of getting 13,000 locations around the world to create a connection with its customers while efficiently and cost-effectively serving up the brand. Oh, and selling coffee too.
Former Starbucks marketer John Moore asks "What Must Starbucks Do?” He’s compiling reader-submitted answers into a pdf book. Here is an expanded version of my response to Moore's question.
At the heart of successful brands like Starbucks is usually a story. So how can Starbucks tell one story 13,000 times?
Leave the Brew Alone
Schultz is worried his stores don’t smell like coffee anymore. Good. Smell is one of the more powerful ways to differentiate a brand (scent or odor for that matter). Over the long term, Starbucks needs to weigh any changes to its brew very carefully and worry less about add-on merchandise.
Redefine the Store Experience
There are many opportunities to redefine the store experience that aren’t as permanent or as costly as 13,000 new store layouts or 13,000 new interior makeovers. For example, look at how Starbucks transformed its stores to promote Akeelah and the Bee. Or check out how Anthropologie employees use simple elements to transform their stores through visual merchandising. It can be done.
Retell the Story
While pop-up retail gets all the attention, more locations are not the answer to this problem. A fleet of mobile marketing vans can help bring "Starbucks Theatre" to a strategic mix of locations. These vans will be staffed by the same passionate people that get Starbucks high marks in customer service. What will they do? Entertain, engage, hand out free stuff and surprise customers. It will all serve as a reminder of why they like Starbucks.
Give Up the Brand
Everything from Starbucks seems tightly-controlled and edited. ”The Way I See It” is an example. Regional "The Way I See It" competitions would be a cost-effective way for Starbucks to get local quotes onto its cups.
13,000 is a mind-boggling number of stores. But take the average number of customers in one day and multiply it by 13,000. Starbucks needs to let its customers express the Starbucks brand. This involves some risk. But just think of the stories customers can tell to help reinforce this iconic brand.
Howard Schultz is asking the right question, he just needs to ask more people—and then listen.