I’m addicted to Starbucks, Not Coffee

The Starbucks “Experience”

As I was blindly shoveling oatmeal into my face at home this morning, that all-too-familiar thought crossed my mind: “I could sure use a cup of Starbucks right now“. I could already smell the delicious, chocolate-infused mocha with the hint of a cinnamon-swirl coffee cake in the background. I could feel the warm green and white cup with the organic paper sleeve fitting perfectly into my hand and warming my soul. As I left for work I couldn’t help but think, “Maybe I’ll just grab a quick cup on my way“.

Before I knew it, I was passing beneath the magical green logo as I entered my local Starbucks. As the door closed behind me, I could feel a sense of peace and comfort. The perfectly stacked bags of coffee and fanciful mugs, the espresso-stained green aprons, the modern-industrial menu, the wood-flavored tables and chairs – everything was in it’s place.


The line was especially long today but I didn’t mind – it gave me time to watch the baristas and customers as everyone busily worked in perfect harmony. Suddenly, it was my turn to place an order – time to tell them just how I liked my coffee. I confidently rattled off my drink preferences followed with a “please and thank you”. The barista smiled, asked my name and quickly personalized my cup. After a swipe of the card, I was done and ready to wait for my drink.

Waiting is the best and worst part. You’re so close that you can taste it. Every time a name is announced, you hope that it’s yours but some other hopeful person steps from among the crowd and proudly claims their cup of gold. Finally, my time arrived. I snatch my drink and briskly walk to the door pursing my lips as I raise the cup to my mouth. It’s too hot, I can already tell – but I don’t care. The sweet taste of Starbucks means I’m ready for the day.

What makes a good “Brand Experience”?

The trick is simple: Make the customer forget about the product and LOVE the experience. I’m not a coffee connoisseur, but I’m betting that the coffee at Starbucks is pretty sub-par. I could get coffee just about anywhere – I go to Starbucks for the experience. You have to provide your customers with the unexpected – go the extra mile (or two).

The folks are Starbucks understand that it’s more than coffee, it’s a social living room where people feel comfortable. Their brand experience is seamless. You could walk into 100 Starbucks and they would all feel the same. And in most cases, you get the same smiling barista that writes your name right on the cup.

However, the most impressive piece of Starbuck’s brand experience is its scalability. Any small coffee shop can have a great brand experience but to showcase it on such a wide level is a tribute to Starbuck’s leadership, oranized processes and marketing.

So the next time you roll into a Starbucks, ask yourself – are you selling your customers products or providing them with an unforgettable experience?

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