Welcome to the the Ivey HBA Retail Marketing Management blog. Retail marketing is an exciting, dynamic, important, and very visible aspect of the overall field of marketing. Throughout the year, students will be posting comments regarding contemporary retailing issues. Although this is intended to be used by Bus 4411 students, industry marketing professionals are also invited to join in if they like.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Making the Switch to Starbucks

For this blog, I wanted to tell a story about how a firm's ability to accentuate its main RVP component can completely alter the perception of even its most stubborn customers - like myself.

Rarely do I ever buy from Starbucks. First of all, caffeine and ginger don’t mix well. Secondly, I perceive their products to be overpriced. Finally, I don’t enjoy the experience of having to translate my drink into some foreign language to a ridiculously cheerful and energetic barista only to then waiting in line. I guess I think that the whole thing is very irrational; if coffee is supposed to be a regular purchase, then what is all the excitement about? Why do they try to make it a show?!

I understand that if you like coffee, and you like the taste of Starbucks coffee, Starbucks works for you. And please don’t get me wrong; I absolutely love certain aspects of the Starbucks experience - notably the music and the couches. However, these things have nothing to do with the actual product they are selling! This is why, when I can’t focus at home, I head to Starbucks to do work. Most of the time, I just sit down and read cases without actually buying anything.

The other day, however, I found myself in the position where I was hungry and had no choice but to order from Starbucks; in a sense, I was forced. I walked through the entire process, step-by-step. By the end, my perception of Starbucks was altered.

Things started out as usual, at first. I had to decide on a sandwich. I was already bitter about having to shop at Starbucks because I knew that by the end of the transaction, I would be out by at least $12. It didn’t help that a friend of mine who used to work at a Starbucks told me last week that every day, Starbucks throws away its unsold food. This means that in 10 hours, this sandwich was going to have a price of zero, but I needed to pay $8 for it now if I wanted to satisfy my hunger. I grab a chipotle chicken even though I don’t like chipotle – probably because I’m subconsciously looking for another excuse to feel bitter!

When Dave the barista took over my order at the cash register, that’s when everything started to change.

“Do you want us to heat that up for you?”

“You do that here?”

“Yes! You can always heat up your sandwiches before eating them, here.”

“Okay. Thank you!”

When I get my sandwich back, he gives me change and I wait for my mocha. Dave is taking on the next customer in line as I wait. After just a couple of minutes of listening to Ray Charles, I grab my mocha and sit down.

They actually messed up my drink and gave me a regular mocha instead of a white mocha – but it took me a while to catch this, because I was too busy enjoying the music and thinking about the quote on the back of my cup! I had never noticed that before. It read:

“Failure’s hard, but success is far more dangerous. If you’re successful at the wrong thing, the mix of praise and money and opportunity can lock you in forever.”

I thought to myself, “I bet a lot of the people who order Starbucks every day would be touched by this quote.” Then, I read the French translation below:

“L’echec est difficile, mais le succès est encore plus dangereux. Si vous réussissez dans un domaine qui n’est pas le vôtre, le mélange es élogues et de l’argent recus, ajouté aux perspectives d’avenir andas ce domaine peut vous y retenir pour toujours.”

It’s funny how in the French translation, the emphasis is on being successful at the craft that you were meant to perform, whereas in English, the quote says “doing the wrong thing” – which implies a lack of integrity. When I read the quotes, the main message I took from each felt completely different. It’s interesting how the notion of perceived benefits extends all the way to differences in translations.

“What a great idea,” I thought. It made me want to order a drink next time I came to study just so I could read a quote that made me think. I kept sitting there, thinking about how nice it was to sit back, relax, and evaluate this quote, alone in a coffee shop, listening to great music, when I suddenly realized what had just happened.

I had ordered a sandwich I didn’t like. I was drinking a drink I didn’t order and didn’t find particularly tasty. I had paid over $10 for this meal. Yet, I was thoroughly enjoying myself – and picturing myself coming back and ordering from Starbucks again! All the things that come together to make Starbucks an experience had come together so perfectly for me that I still found myself having a great experience despite the fact that the products I ordered weren’t even that great.

I realized that this is exactly why people say that “Starbucks takes experience to a whole new level”. Before this, never have I ever purchased a product that I found dissatisfactory and still found myself hoping to come back to the store sometime soon. Had it not been for the friendly service, the music, the comfortable setting, and the extra effort that Starbucks goes to, to make sure that I enjoy drinking a coffee out of their cup, I would not have enjoyed myself – which led me to think, “Imagine how much I would have enjoyed it if I had actually gotten a good-tasting meal!”

By the end, Starbucks had won me over. I still don’t drink coffee, and I’m still somewhat price-conscious – so I’m not saying that I’m going to go back there regularly. However, the "at-home" feeling that I got from being taken care of by Dave, listening to soothing jazz music, sitting on their huge, comfy couch and letting my thoughts wander completely eliminated my initial perception of Starbucks as a huge, evil multinational that tries to rip people off. Even upon analyzing it now and realizing that that is how I was “sucked in”, I still want to go back – because I’m so impressed!! The degree of detail to which Starbucks management has gone in order to create a comfortable atmosphere for me has made the store very appealing and almost makes me feel as though they merit my business.

Thanks to this experience, I am now loyal to Starbucks.

No comments: