Does Starbucks Still Make You Feel Special?

I generally buy my Starbucks coffee by the bag and grind it up at home. I recently noticed that you could get the 1/2 size bags at Safeway. While convenient, I thought it seemed like a big departure from their premium brand. When you see their bags of coffee in a fluorescent lit grocery store right next to the no-name brands it kind of makes them, well, not as special. That was a couple of months ago, and now this from Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz.

It got me thinking about how we all want to be special. Part of being special, the way we set ourselves apart, is our consumer spending decisions. From shoes, to cars, to coffee. The brands we purchase and use help define who we are. The more successful a brand, the less special it is, at least in the minds of consumers who were using that brand to set themselves apart. I wonder, if lower income people started drinking Starbucks in large numbers, would the well-to-do customers switch to something else? If Apple suddenly had 45% market share would I feel as good about my iMac? Let’s face it, part of the appeal of the Mac is not everybody has one. It makes us special.

We’re not cookie cutter damn it and we want everyone to know it.

Look at the iPod. When your dad has one, does it stop being cool? When the poor, overweight kid in school pulls out a new Nano, do the rich kids who had theirs first quit bringing theirs to school because they’re not as special. Do products become less valuable just because everyone has them? Seems to me they do, in the minds of those who want to be special.

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One comment

  1. hey jason…i couldn’t agree more. you hit the mark on this post. no necessarily regarding SB, but just life in general.

    _trevor

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