Monday, June 2, 2008

Starbucks is Dead

Okay, maybe a bit of an overstatement.  I say it because my "experience" of Starbucks has gone from a "highlight of my day" to one of avoidance.  Why do I see Starbucks as dead? Because when I go its dirty, crowded, and often staffed by dizzyheads who don't leave enough room for milk.  And, this hurts the most to say, the coffee itself has slipped.  I still find good cups at Starbucks, but not always.

Visionary founder Howard Schultz is back at the helm because results have suffered.  Awareness is the start of a return to greatness.  Apple came back from the doldrums, maybe Starbucks can as well.  

I'll never forget my first Starbucks.  They opened their first Chicago location on Wacker drive and I stumbled into it while waiting to make a sales call at Morton Salt.  I dosed my Americano and took my first sip and was instantly addicted -- this was clearly the best cup of coffee I'd ever had.  I've had thousands since then, I was a true believer.  

Until things started going pear-shaped.

Innovation for a company like Starbucks is incredibly challenging. It's like trying to make love in a straight jacket.  How to keep things fresh and new, how to keep old customers happy while bringing in new ones, etc.  How not to have locations stepping on each others customers.  The key is continuously looking at, and implementing, fresh ideas while maintaining focus on the core business. 

When I heard the suits had changed things from fresh ground to pre-packaged I knew they'd lost it.  Suits are great for keeping the books, not so great when it comes to creating a real cool experience for customers.  

In researching this blog entry I stumbled on My Starbucks Idea -- a site for consumers to post ideas for Starbucks consideration.  In just a few days participating I've noticed real ideation, real dialogue on the site.  It's a good signal.  The heart stopped but it's beating again.  If they want to continue the recovery they'll not only listen, they'll take action on the ideas that have been posted.  

Lots of action!  

Good luck Howard!

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