Starbucks is one of the most easily recognizable brands in the world. Originating from a chain of roastery reserves and coffee houses from Seattle, it is now considered the world’s biggest coffee house chain. It is largely seen as the main representation of America’s massive coffee culture, which has now spread worldwide.
It is far from perfect as a brand, with controversies ranging from something as benign as under-filling their lattes and stealing drink ideas to more serious ones such as running insensitive and tone-deaf campaigns. Still, no one can deny the impact their brand has made not just in the U.S. but worldwide.
Here are some marketing lessons we can learn from the world’s biggest coffee house chain.
They re-defined the “customer experience.”
From the very beginning, one of the things that we pay for when we go to Starbucks is the experience—sipping relatively good coffee in a comfortable ambiance; a well-lit, loft-like space that’s marked by regionally-inspired furnishings and furniture, with culturally relevant textiles and fabrics. Their furniture is also largely ergonomic, making their branches the perfect place for working professionals or students who want to work or study away from home. It became the go-to place for many who wanted to escape the dourness of their homes and didn’t want to go to libraries.
We can learn: Starbucks saw a gap in the market and found a solid footing by providing a service that wasn’t widely provided at the time. What needs are your brand or business uniquely positioned to meet or fulfill?
They created a strong brand identity.
The Starbucks siren is perhaps one of the most easily recognizable logos globally, as are the brand’s colors, fonts, and other design elements. Starbucks created a standardized look and feel in all of its branches—wherever you may find yourself in the world, a Starbucks drink and store will always taste, look, and feel the same. The styling may be different as certain furnishings were designed to appeal to that region’s locals, but the atmosphere will be the same, as will the food, coffee, and service.
This global expansion was evident when in 2011, they removed the words “Starbucks Coffee” from their logos and left the siren, signaling an expansion from coffee to food. They also have a strong social media presence, where they can stay abreast of consumer ideas for what excellent customer experience entails.
What we can learn: The Starbucks brand has shown attention to detail, consistency, and dedication to replicating the customer experience that allowed them to expand as well as they did. Baristas are thoroughly trained so that they can create the perfect cup of coffee each time. Through their social media presence, they also make it a point to understand customers in non-traditional ways, allowing them to build their brand in ways that resonate with consumers worldwide.
Don’t hesitate to hire professionals for this; a marketing and advertising agency can help you understand your target market and reach your goals. A deep dive into your target audience’s market psychology can give you a special insight into their behavior and help you reach them properly through effective campaigns.
They espouse social responsibility and eco-friendly practices.
Starbucks started showing dedication to eco-friendly practices through the 1999 campaign “Grounds for your Garden,” which provided their customers with leftover coffee grounds if they wanted to use them for composting. They also began using 10% recycled paper for their cups in 2006. The company also partnered with Conservation International to help protect the natural resources and environment of the coffee-growing local communities in Indonesia and Mexico.
In 2020, Starbucks enforced the global ban of single-use plastic straws for all of their cold drinks. All of their locations worldwide are complying with this to combating oceanic pollution and sea turtle endangerment. These are just some of the many steps the company has taken to show their dedication and commitment to sustainability and ethical practices.
What we can learn: As the world grows more complex and as climate change continues to show adverse effects which get worse by the year, more and more consumers would be inclined to shift to conscious consumerism by supporting brands that care about our planet. Starbucks’ commitment to protecting the earth’s natural resources has clearly resonated with its customers, and businesses all over the world would benefit from displaying the same care for others and the earth, and not just profit.
Starbucks as a brand is far from perfect, but there are many lessons we can learn from their success. If we can show the same level of commitment to our core values, a strong brand identity, and social and ethical responsibility, our brand might reach greater heights, too.