I’ll admit it. I’m addicted. I’m addicted to Starbucks. In college, at a time when I was merely scraping by, I would ask my dad to inject my bank account every now and again to help out. His first question was always “Are you still buying your $4.35 soy lattes?” Caught. Mocha-handed. Even now, on my way to work at Moosylvania advertising agency, it takes everything I have in me not to pull into that endless drive-thru to overpay for coffee.
So what is it about that little overpriced coffee shop that drags me (and the entire java-loving population) back time and time again? And not to just buy coffee. Is it the curiously aromatic drip? The lavish pastries? The worldly music selection? That mesmerizing green mermaid staring back from my cup of joe?
This becomes a loaded question when you consider the company’s brand identity. It is an identity that has seemingly shifted so many times over the last 40 years that I’m surprised we remember that at its core, Starbucks is in the business of selling coffee. To make matters a bit clearer, let’s take a look at where Starbucks was in 1971 and where it is now:
1971. The first Starbucks opened in Pike’s Place Market, inspired by Italian culture and founded on the idea that coffee is best served fresh. Fast forward to 2012. Starbucks is a one-stop-shop offering a smorgasbord of items beyond its traditional coffee varietals. Modern day Starbucks shops are filled with merchandise (mugs, books, music), food (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and finally, coffee. But wait! That too comes raw, hot, cold or frozen. Howard Schultz, the company’s CEO, continues to reinvent the Starbucks experience by serving up new innovations, such as VIA® Ready Brew instant coffee or its advanced brewing system, The Clover®.
While it may appear on the surface that Starbucks’ identity has evolved over the years, it is simply its offerings that have varied. Their continued focus on quality coffee has ultimately led to their authority in the entire coffee industry, not in just coffee itself. And it’s what has given them the credibility to diversify so well. Many brands see the profits in diversification but sprint too quickly toward new products. In turn, they lose sight of their core offering and are deprived of their integrity. So the lesson is to do one thing really well before you do many things just okay.
So my question now is “what’s next?”
With such a strong brand identity serving as the backbone and driving force behind Starbucks, there is no doubt the coffee mecca will continue to jump on new opportunities in the marketplace. What Starbucks has understood from the beginning is who they were and what they were trying to sell. They just got it. And this has allowed the company to continue innovating beyond coffee beans–to give their customers what they really want–quality choices.
Do you know any other brands that have established a solid brand identity? Tell us about your favorites in the comments below!