I just happened to stumble across an article in the February 1, 2010 issue of Time entitled, “Starbucks Can Smell Growth”. It’s an interview with Starbucks founder and CEO, Howard Schultz, who retired in 2000 only to return in 2008 to a Starbucks in trouble. The article goes on to mention how consumer-spending habits have changed in these times of financial difficulty and that Starbucks hopes its entrance into the instant coffee market will once again transform the company into a financial darling.
I don’t really feel that Starbucks’ trouble was or is the economy. I think the main reason they got into trouble is they truly lost sight of their brand. I know I’m not alone in seeing an evolution in Starbucks that has not been for the better. Yes, I know that I can go to any Starbucks and get a very dependable good cup of coffee. But I also know the same can be said of Dunkin Donuts or McDonald’s or even at home.
If by chance I do run into Starbucks — that’s all I do. Grab and go. Because for me, long gone is the experience that I had sought from Starbucks. It no longer makes me feel special. It’s funny, but there was a time I actually felt proud to say I drank Starbucks – and would even turned my nose up to another brand if offered — but no more.
Sales may be down because of the financial crisis, but sales were down before then. And besides, even in times of trouble, people will still seek out that something “special.” There are brands that still remain strong, sometimes stronger. If Starbucks had remained loyal to its original brand, I think consumers would have remained loyal as well.
Starbucks needs to return to the blackboard and rethink things, like their own brand.