Friday, March 21, 2008

Lovemark may redeem top tier status

Lovemark, you ask? What's a lovemark? Did she make it up - you know, like "revynopsis?"

Nope - not I. Not this time. Kevin Roberts, of Saatchi and Saatchi fame (well.., fame to some, infame to others) has that honor. Wrote the book, started the website, yadda, yadda, yadda...

Take a brand away and people will find a replacement. Take a Lovemark away and people will protest its absence. Lovemarks are a relationship, not a mere transaction. You don’t just buy Lovemarks, you embrace them passionately. That’s why you never want to let go.

Put simply, Lovemarks inspire Loyalty Beyond Reason

Ah, Starbucks...

Are you going to the Starbucks there?
Coffee, tea, chai latte and time
Remember me to one who lives there,
For she once was a true love of mine.

So the coffee (and the chai tea latte, for that matter) is better at Peets. So the Ultimate Blended at Coffee Bean kicks Frappuccino's butt. So there are more Starbucks than there should be - except when you really want one. I walked a mile in New York City once - I kid you not, a mile on the Upper West Side, without passing a single Starbucks. I thought I'd walked into a time warp.

Regardless -- Starbucks was first. Starbucks is old reliable. Starbucks is omnipresent - and thank goodness, or we'd be stuck drinking coffee at McDonald's in Tokyo. I mean really. Starbucks is there when you need it -- comforting, familiar, always ready with the New York Times (Peets and CBTL can't say that). But... I have to admit that lately, I have fallen out of love. I'm talking serious lovemark status slippage.

One, and it's almost too horrible to talk about - can we discuss airport Starbucks? Where to start? With the 3 pastry selections? Excuse me, the 3 dessicated pastry selections that look like they were delivered last month after being rejected by the corner deli? How about with the "sorry, we're out of... soy milk, chai syrup, honey, water?" (Okay, they've never actually been out of water... yet.)

Two, the wait. It used to be that going to Starbucks was like going to the Barista Magic Show. Wham Bam Presto Espresso Ma'am. Now it's more like taking the short bus to school - oh, you mean you wanted that latte today? And let me tell you, in the morning, before I've had my first cup of coffee is so not the time to make me wait for it. Kind of a bummer catch-22 for that poor dude behind the counter, but get on the stick and give me my coffee. Now. Before I kill you by shoving a stir stick in your ear.

Three, the coffee really is not that good. Sometimes it's kind of like drinking the top of a really good charred steak. Which would be tasty on a plate - but in a mug?

So, you're asking - what's changed? Whassup that Starbucks might be making a comeback in the Lovemark book of g? (That's me.) Well, it's not any change in the airport Starbucks -they still pretty much suck. But I have noticed that the short bus isn't stopping at my neighborhood S'bux so much anymore... nice not to have to worry anymore about being the first to use the "I hadn't had my venti extra-hot half-caf soy dry latte with an extra shot" defense in a homicide case. Not to mention it's nice to get my morning cup of joe in a timely fashion.

And... get this... for those of you who carry around a Starbucks card (like I) - well, starting in April, your upgrades - that vanilla syrup (not my thing - but if you like it, go for it), that soy milk (now that is my thing) - are yours at no charge. That's right folks. Use your Starbucks loyalty card and get your upgrade free. Doesn't that seem like just the way to build brand loyalty? Sure does to me.

Seems as though Mr. Schultz (Howard Schultz, CEO) made this announcement at the end of the last annual meeting:

We somehow evolved from a culture of entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation to a culture of, in a way, mediocrity and bureaucracy.

That's a pretty ballsy thing to say at your annual meeting. Unless you intend to actually do something about it. (For the rest of what Howie intends to do to combat mediocrity and bureaucracy in Gotham, I mean Seattle, read Kevin Coupe's stellar cliff notes.)

Starbucks, my lovemark. Sigh.

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