Howard Schultz, Starbucks Chairman, recently sent an email to key company executives warning them of how the Starbucks brand is being commoditized. He fears key decisions have led to “the watering down of the Starbucks experience.” And he challenged his executive team to guide Starbucks back to its core roots of being a coffee company.
And discuss is exactly what Paul Williams and I, two former long-time Starbucks marketers, have been doing.
We’ve talked strategy. We’ve talked tactics. We’ve taken an in-depth look at this marketing challenge. So for the next week or so, Paul and I are gonna share our exact thoughts on what Starbucks can do to follow-through on Howard’s challenge. That’s right. We are going to solve Starbucks problems one post at a time.
So when the Howard Schultz “battle cry” email was leaked to the public, the first person I contacted was Paul.
Much like the image above depicts, which by the way is a vintage year 2000 photo of me in my cubicle at Starbucks HQ, I was very surprised to read it. Wasn’t surprised at the content because every decision Howard singles out in the memo as being damaging to the brand has sparked countless debates inside Starbucks.
Paul and I traded emails back and forth and chatted over Skype discussing Howard’s email. We began to reflect on Starbucks current-day issues and quickly reverted to our old ways of sharing ideas and strategies.
You see, back in the day Paul and I would constantly riff off each other’s ideas. We’d be in a marketing meeting and all of a sudden an ideation session would breakout between us two. Paul would volley an idea to me and I would return volley. Amazingly, we managed to keep our “idea volleys” going for hours.
Needless to say, both Paul and I were ready to bear arms after reading Howard’s battle cry email challenging the company to “… make the changes necessary to evoke the heritage, the tradition, and the passion that we all have for the true Starbucks experience.”
The gist of Howard’s email expressed his concern Starbucks is not the same company it once was. He fears key decisions have led to “the watering down of the Starbucks experience” and to the commoditization of the Starbucks brand.
For example, he laments the change-over to automated espresso machines. He regrets the decisions made which have reduced the presence and essence of coffee in Starbucks stores. He believes the stores no longer have the soul they once had from a design aesthetic. And, he expresses feelings the company has forsaken its coffee heritage in pursuit of more stores and greater sales.
Howard closes his email by challenging his executive team to guide Starbucks back to its core roots of being a coffee company.
That’s some fodder, eh? Ya sure, you betcha.
As mentioned above, Paul and I are gonna share our exact thoughts on what Starbucks can do to follow-through on Howard’s challenge. We’re gonna volley blog posts back and forth with each post building off of what the other one says. At the end of our online ideation session, we should have a comprehensive strategic plan for Starbucks to use in order to make it the same company it once was.
So Paul, I just served up the conversation … the ball is in your court.
Psst!!! This is when you head over to Paul’s blog to read our continuing conversation.