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Starbucks – rebranding, and serving alcohol?

July 16th, 2009

CNN Money reports today that in at least one Seattle location, Starbucks is undergoing an identity change and swapping out it’s globally recognized brand name in favor of a more local ‘flavor’ – naming each store to reflect it’s neighborhood location.  In addition to this name change, Starbucks is planning on also transforming the experience the customer has within the store itself.  Beyond their trademark coffee and tea offerings they are planning on adding beer and wine to the beverage list and ‘opening stores with a more sophisticated tone that hearkens back to its early coffeehouse days‘.

It’s an interesting move.  Starbucks has faced declining sales in the last year as the economy has pulled back and the customer is closely watching their pocketbook in the face of financial uncertainties.  Premium coffee habits have given way to more pressing needs in the minds of consumers.  Will changing a globally recognized brand name and revamping the customer experience inside the store help this? 

From my perspective, they should have tapped into their thriving community to see what they thought of the idea.  They clearly have a valued and active area for people to share their thoughts and wishes – why not ask for something back from that same community when Starbucks is testing a new concept?  That would have been the smart move.  This will be an interesting one to watch.  Now instead of grabbing a ‘Starbucks’, I guess at least some coffee addicts in Seattle will be grabbing a 15th Ave Coffee.  Just doesn’t have the same ring to it.  Then again, you can’t get a beer at a Starbucks so they’ve got that going for them!


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