Dazzled by a Coffee Shop Chain

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Starbucks: there have already been whole books written about this international marketing phenomenon, and that should be no surprise. Perhaps only George W. Bush himself better illustrates how a product, however average, can successfully be sold to the masses if you just have the ad money to spend and get the promotional campaign right. For me, Starbucks’ success in making an outright fetish out of coffee – so that people are willing to line up at a counter to spend on the order of $5.00 for a single cup – is emblematic of the American go-go years of not so long ago, before the big Crash, as innumerable people stuck a Grande Caffè Mocha into the drinks-holder of their SUV as they set off to visit the properties they had bought no-money-down to “flip” for a profit as soon as possible.

The company’s progress within Europe is of particular amusement, especially Central Europe which, after all, originally introduced the café/coffeehouse and coffee culture in general to the world a little less than four centuries ago. It’s a bit as if GM were to establish a high-performance automotive division in Northern Italy, with the explicit mission of showing Ferrari, Lancia, etc. how the game should be played. Belgium, at least, has heretofore largely avoided this scourge, but apparently not for long, as we see from the recent article by Caroline Boeur in La Dernière Heure with the breathless title Soon a fifth Starbucks? (more…)

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