When I was talking to Jan last week, we had discussed, in passing, the nature of Starbucks. Voracious readers of Our Story will recall that I’m a Starbucks fan. From the drinks to the wireless access, I just really enjoy taking the laptop in, plopping down in an overstuffed chair, and spending an hour or so hanging out.
Sarah and I discovered last week that there’s a Starbucks right around the corner from The Village Church, on Greenwich Avenue. I mentioned to Jan that this was a strong draw to come back to the church and she balked, exclaiming, “Starbucks is evil!” The rationale goes something like this: Starbucks has a stated business objective to put any and all competition out of business—especially targeting small-business comptetitors. What probably goes hand-in-hand with this argument is that Starbucks is a multinational corporation who leads an extremely well-branded marketing campaigns and has a track record of putting local businesses into bankruptcy court—much in the same way that Walmart and the Home Depot have done to competing businesses.
But, is this really evil? I mean, I work for a multinational corporation. We have a brand strategy. One of our stated objectives is to crush our competition. That’s business. You don’t go into the market to “kinda” get marketshare from your competitors, any more than the Nets “kinda” want to beat the Celtics.
However—I know—it’s not all that simple. In a world where power is on the side of the oppressors (cf. Ecclesiastes 4), the powers of business need to be checked. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Global business has a track record of disregarding human rights issues to protect their own bottom line—justice-based business initiatives cut into profits.
What’s more difficult is that people are wrestling with the concept of America as a corporately branded culture in the 21st century. This is may not be an unfamiliar concept to you, but what “will really bake your noodle later on is,” can you even fathom what it would be to not live in a branded culture? Try it, just for a minute. Can you imagine not growing up with Thundercats and that great Eye of Thundera logo? Or, not aligning yourself with the car company whose product you drive? Or, not drooling over the latest Apple-branded gadget (okay, some of you may not have to imagine that)? 🙂 What must life have been for people who, even a hundred years ago, didn’t have such prevalent signs and logos?
Anyway, I don’t have answers to these questions. So, I turned to Google. (Insert brand irony here). The top ten-or-so hits returned these articles which, if nothing else, provide something to think about:
* PuntiveArt: Starbucks – Chain != Evil.
The main complaint I hear about Starbucks is that they put the indies out of business. Sometimes they do, other times they don’t. From all the indies I hung out in, I can tell you most of them deserved to go out of business. Average coffee, horrible service, minimal selection.
* Fluffybunny: Bringing Down Starbucks… one latte at a time.
The third trip found me again facing the smirking barista who called into question my right to use another coupon. The coupon’s only stated limitation was one per visit so I politely pointed out the fine print and told him not to skimp on the froth. He grudgingly served me my coffee and I smiled my warmest ‘season’s greetings’ to him before turning away.
* ihatestarbucks.com: Why do I, personally, hate Starbucks?
I hate them because their coffe sucks and they are everywhere. You can´t escape them.
* Ocean Beach Grassroots Organization: Starbucks not welcome in OB.
Since March 2001, thousands of activists have taken part in protests and leafleting events outside $tarbucks cafes in over 300 cities in the US, Canada, New Zealand and England. Man, these guys are passionate about this. Lots of links here, too.
* Starbucks: Corporate Social Responsibility.
Giving back to our communities is the way we do business. Contributing positively to our communities and environment is so important to Starbucks it is listed as a guiding principle of the company’s mission. Partners at all levels are involved in this initiative in a number of areas, helping to improve resources and well-being in our surroundings.
When deep space exploration ramps up, it’ll be the corporations that name everything: the IBM stellar sphere, the Microsoft galaxy, Planet Starbucks. – Fight Club
Update: More reading:
* Starbucks: 2002 10-K.
Net revenues increased 24% from $2.6 billion in fiscal 2001 to $3.3 billion in fiscal 2002, primarily due to the Company’s store expansion program and comparable store sales increases…As a result of its expansion strategy of clustering stores in existing markets, Starbucks has experienced a certain level of cannibalization of sales of existing stores by new stores as store concentration has increased…This cannibalization, as well as increased competition, slowing economies and other factors, may put downward pressure on the Company’s comparable store sales growth in future periods. I went looking for this after Ryan mentioned it in his comment. Starbucks 24% net revenue growth is astounding, especially when one considers that this is accounting for “downward pressure” of Starbucks’ “cannibalization” growth strategy.
* Hoover’s: Starbucks Corporation Profile.
Starbucks’ strategy is simple: Establish its name everywhere. Chairman Howard Schultz estimates the coffee company will hit 20,000 stores before it lets up. Having conquered the US, the company is invading Europe… Note: don’t bother clicking on the link unless you have or want to purchase Hoover’s premium offerings.