They also sell coffee.
Starbucks has become a cultural big deal. Their cafes are social gathering spots all over the world, a big reason why the company’s share of the coffeehouse market is so mind-boggling.
And what’s so eerily sensible about Starbucks’ marketing strategy is how little they spend on advertising compared to some big-time competitors -- and how much they invest in getting the experience right, from product to the people who present the product.
When was the last time you saw a Starbucks ad on TV? Compared to McDonalds or even Dunkin' Donuts (both of whom seek to amp up their coffee business), Starbucks’ investment in advertising is miniscule. They don't need advertising, which Geek Squad founder Robert Stephens calls “a tax you pay for unremarkable thinking.” Because Starbucks has what I call Word of Mind. Their brand lives in your head.
When it’s time to socialize over a cup of coffee – and you’re a man or woman between 25 and 40 (their demographic sweet spot), you think about Starbucks first. Or one of the gazillion local coffee shops that emulate Starbucks’ atmosphere if you can’t find the real thing. The idea here is not to diminish your favorite coffee haunt in favor of Starbucks but to point out the power in getting the basics right: creating a product experience that lives in your customers’ minds. It doesn’t matter what you sell – office supplies or church chairs, underwear or industrial components. Your “real” product may be something quite apart: the experience of using or wearing or drinking what you sell.
Starbucks’ logo doesn’t even say “coffee” anymore. It’s just that smiling mermaid singing her Siren song about the atmosphere and sense of social connectedness that Starbucks sells along with their coffee.
TakeAway: The battle for your customers’ minds may lie more in product experience than product features.
Tags: Starbucks, McDonalds, Dunkin' Donuts, Geek Squad
Content © by Brian E. Faulkner
About Brian Faulkner:
Brian also is a five-time Emmy award winning Public Television writer and narrator of UNC-TV’s popular Our State magazine series, on the air since 2003.