Tuesday, January 31, 2006



I was asked in a recent job interview to name a great brand. For you non-marketing types, a "brand" isn't just the name of the yogurt you buy, but all of the feelings and experiences that go with it. It's a gestalt thing.

One of the brands I named was -- and sitting in Seattle, it's a double-edged sword to name a home brand -- is Starbucks. With Starbucks, you know what you're getting. You have a level of expectation about the quality of the coffee you order, but you also have an expectation of the ambiance of the venue itself. And the Starbucks experience includes more than coffee, or even snacks; there's music, there's games and gifts, and there's the 15-minute vacation that each of the three Starbucks per block gives you.

Today, in receiving my latest polite thanks-but-no-thanks email from Starbucks about a job opening to which I'd applied, I stumbled across the latest marketing brilliance from what's probably the pre-eminent brand of the early third millennium: Espresso dating. Not only do people go to Starbucks to hang out, meet friends, do a little writing or reading, or meet for business, but now you can sign up to be part of its dating service. Blind dates over espresso macchiato... is that brilliant or what? It builds the sense of Starbucks as a community center, it encourages extra visits... and it sells more coffee at the impressive Starbucks markup.

So lift your venti mocha to the marketing brilliance at Starbucks. And, if you're single... there's nothing better than getting strung out on caffeine while meeting that person who could be The One. At least you'll have coffee in common.

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