Gravelle Branding / Marketing

Howard Schultz – Part Trois

Much water has gone under the dam since 1987 when Howard Schultz took the fateful trip to Italy, observed the typical Italian coffee shop/cafe where people had leisurely expresso and actually talked to each other without a cell phone or iPad to steal glances at. That thought became the impetus for his purchase of a group of coffee shops named Starbucks.

It became one of the most well-known brands in the world. Schultz created romantic environments not stores, changed the vernacular to venti/grande and barista, impeccably designed everything from the stickers on the various sacks of coffee, to the merchandise on the kiosks. He emphasized teaching the baristas to learn each customer’s name and drink. You of course knew theirs. There was free Wi-Fi to attract the thirty something-crowd, long desks to put your laptop on, didn’t rush you or try to sell you something.

My first stop on the way into work was to stop by Starbucks get a Grande Drip in a Venti cup, put in some Half and Half and head out to work. If I had waited until getting to the office, the stuff that pretended to be coffee would be free. But I had just spent $3.00 and got to be among the cool club, and maybe see some of my friends. And have them see me.

Such is the power of branding. Schultz left, came back, and has now come back to reenergize a brand that has floundered with digital-based customers that go through the drive thru-70% of all orders- and don’t come in. Goodbye romance, goodbye interactions with baristas, goodbye waving at your friends, or meeting someone. Howard has a big job on his hands, pandemic or no pandemic. Hello to efficiency, to new coffee makers to crank out the product, to real estate that can’t fit a drive thru lane (like mine) and to (yikes) unions.

This is no small task and will require some of Schultz’s creativity and knowledge of the customer. Hide and watch. It ought to be fun.