Coffee at Starbucks

When you think about successful branding you may think of Starbucks, knowing that they did not rely on TV-ads for their marketing but mostly word-of-mouth. In recent years, Starbucks has branched out on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube; spreading e-word-of-mouth. How have they been able to create such an impression?

They have created a perception that their coffee is made of the best beans; that is, from Ethiopian farms. The focus is not on coffee beans per se, but more on the experience of drinking coffee; building upon the 16th century coffee experience in modern settings. We may have not have such luxury of time anymore, but it builds upon the nostalgia of that time; a lost Era of discussing politics or the weather with total strangers. They probably do not want to send a mixed message, so they focus on the experience instead; as there is greater resonance to this than ‘exploited’ farms in Africa. We are altruistic humans; however no one wants to feel bad while drinking our cup of coffee. We want to feel good. The nostalgia provides us just that.

When Starbucks also launched their coffee in packets, it was all about diversifying their product range and branching out to a greater audience – who may be something in-between the average take-away customer and sit-in customer; bringing the experience home. After all, coffee is also for sharing with friends and family. Also, it recently updated its logo to exclude the “coffee”, perhaps signalling this move, that they will move into other products ranges as well, or, embracing local tastes while expanding globally. For example, they faced challenges while launching in China that has a strongly ingrained tea-drinking culture by tradition. They counteracted this by embracing local tastes and adding tea to the menus. Interestingly, nowadays some Chinese have come to associate the commodity coffee with the name Starbucks. That must be called successful branding.

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Indian Traffic

Waiting for the red light to turn green, I imagined how everyday life is for the average Indian driver, with frustrations over congestion expressed in blow-horns. This, even in a place like Delhi where blow-horns are forbidden and explicitly shown in traffic signs. In future, even more so, India is going to have a major problem with road traffic, especially as the low-cost Tata Nano car is released over the country.

The traffic got me thinking that there are big differences in brands that prevail this market as compared to Europe. Take cars. The market seems to still be dominated by Asian brands. Mahindra, Tata, Mauruti-Suzuki, Hyundai, Honda,  even if you can see Fiat Puntos in the street as well as Chevrolets. My uncle, interested in cars, had to import his BMW by air, as it is such a rarity. One of the reasons may be that consumer choice is indirectly regulated as foreign ownership is limited and firms enter by means of joint-ventures, like Fiat did with Tata motors, or Suzuki with Mauruti; making it difficult for foreign car makers to enter the market. In a country where the public transport system may need further improvement, a car, whether it is in China or India is a status symbol. While a BMW in Sweden may mean that you are a trendy person conscious about style, in India it means exclusivity. It is interesting that different brands have different meanings in different countries. Meaning, branding must also be different considering different cultural values. So companies in their market research need to look into the grass-root levels of a society and know what kind of associations exist in the consumer mindset, what is the top-of-mind car to them.

During my short stay, I noticed almost every vehicle from cars to trucks having buckles. Safer trucks could be a business opportunity, but more importantly, the underlying problem is that many truck drivers drink and drive. There need to be a change in attitudes so ordinary civilians don’t suffer the consequences as much as they do today. From an outside perspective, even the professional drivers, act like beyond ant traffic rules, they have to – given the traffic all seems to be a competition – reflecting the general atmosphere of the nation.