Lessons From Starbucks

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Brilliant series from John Moore at Brand Autopsy this week: Tribal Knowledge - Lessons Learned from Working Inside Starbucks.

As I write this, John is only on Lesson #5, but let me recap what he's covered so far:

(Click on the lesson link for the full version.)

Lesson1: Building the Business Creates the Brand
"Your business creates your brand. Your brand should never create your business."

Lesson 2: Make The Common Uncommon
"Before Starbucks, the common cup of coffee could best be described as a hot, brown liquid. A drink to be endured for its jumpstart your day benefits of caffeine. (...) What once was something to be endured, Starbucks made into something to be enjoyed. Something to experience."

Lesson 3: Touchology Trumps Technology
“If we greet customers, exchange a few words with them and then custom-make a drink exactly to their taste, they will be eager to come back.”
- Howard Schultz, Starbucks Chairman & Visionary

Lesson 4: The Excess of Access
"Starbucks will not deny they are everywhere. But they are everywhere because customers want them to be everywhere. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be there. (Starbucks is smart like that.)"

Lesson 5: Re-Org Your Org Chart


Okay, so maybe you aren't a fan of Starbucks. Maybe there are things that Starbucks could still do better. (Things that your corner coffee house does better, or things that The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Company are focusing on in their rise to success in a Starbucks-dominated world.) Fine. You'll get no argument from me. But the fact of the matter is that Starbucks does a lot of things right, and these are only five of them.

What other companies are doing is easy in comparison: All they have to do is reverse-engineer the Starbucks experience and add their own tweaks. Starbucks' weakness for some may be its lack of fresh sandwiches (think Panera and Atlanta Bread Company, for example). For others, it may be the pay-per-use WiFi service (Panera's is free - More on that in an upcoming post). These are the flaws that the other guys are capitalizing on. Good for them too.

Just bear in mind that it isn't easy being the first to market. Starbucks doesn't have the benefit of learning from the market leader's mistakes.

That being said, while Starbucks may not always win my dollar when I am jonesing for a tripple capuccino, it's still the first brand I think of when I am, and the brand I visit most frequently to spend a few bucks on a satisfying jolt of caffeine coolness.

Is it about the coffee? Yeah, sure, but that's only a small part of it. It's also about the fantastic service at the drive-thru window. It's about the convenience of the locations and the late hours. It's about getting my coffee fast and without incident. It's about the cool cup I get to take into my office that makes people suddenly crave a Starbucks cup of coffee themselves. It's about the gift certificates I get every time the drive-thru line lags a bit. It's about the fact that the quality of the Starbucks brand permeates every piece of my experience with them, from the excitement I feel every time I spy a Starbucks sign up the road, to the flavor of their drinks. Starbucks takes care of its customers, and that's just cool.

(And I consider myself merely a recreational coffee drinker, if that.)

Now if they could only stop charging for wifi...

... and maybe teach their airport store employees to smile more. (But that's just me.)

Anyway, check out the Brand Autopsy postings by either clicking on the link (top of page) or on the individual lessons. They're worth the seven and a half minutes it'll take you to read through them.

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