Saturday, October 3, 2009

Starbucks Goes Instant

I loves me some Starbucks but sometimes their preening sense of self-importance kinda sorta turns me off. Their chasing the dollar by offering instant coffee makes 'em just all right with me:
A few years ago, the then-director of research and development for Starbucks, Lawrence Wu Jr., participated in a food-industry conference, where he gave a presentation on the coffee company's method for determining what new products could be included under the Starbucks brand. It was "important to understand what product is at the core of your consumer's mind," he said; for Starbucks, the bull's-eye on the target was barista-made espresso and fresh, brewed coffee. On the first ring out from the bull's-eye were all the fancy "personalized beverages," such as a venti-half-caf-no-foam-skinny-latte. Further from the core were the Frappuccinos and other blender drinks, and further still were the "out of store" products, such as coffee liqueur and ice cream. But finally, Mr. Wu said, you get so far from the core of the business that you're simply "off the target" altogether, with "products that do not build the value or equity of the brand." So destructive of the brand were these products that they would only be explored if the revenues from them were "necessary for the survival of the company." What product did he point to as the canary in the coffee mine? Instant coffee. Mr. Wu called it "a product of last resort."

This week Starbucks gave the full nationwide rollout to its new line of instant coffee.

Flawed people/institutions are more interesting people/institutions. (Except for Roman Polanski.)

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