Rebranding the wheel: Marketing lessons from Starbucks

Managers of the brand are adept at understanding their customers. Even if consumers don’t realize they want a new spin on coffee, a little macchiato makeover is often in the offing.

It has become nearly impossible to avoid Starbucks—on the street or online.

The branding tactic is simple: Consumers continually see the green logo with the white, floating mermaid, and in Pavlovian fashion they long for a jolt of caffeine (or a tasty decaf version).

When most of the products are more or less the same beverage, how do you keep customers coming back specifically to your coffeehouses?

Let’s call the answer the “Starbucks experience,” or what the consumer might think Starbucks is offering in addition to coffee, sweeteners and dairy products.

It’s a marketing mind meld, and here’s how it works:

The message

The people at Starbucks take pride in its unique brand image, which reflects the relationship between the company and its customers.

From visit to visit, one can assume the coffee is more or less the same, but what keeps people coming back is a spiral: The direct experience affirms their relationship with the brand, so they return for another such experience, and on it goes.

Then, when Starbucks rolls out a “new” beverage, as it did this week with the “Latte Macchiato,” these loyal customers try it.

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This beverage is not really new, other than its name change. Perhaps the milk is poured into the coffee earlier in the process than it would be for another drink, but the ingredients (milk, espresso, hot air) are the same.

What makes the Latte Macchiato of interest to the consumer is the way Starbucks presents it.

Starbucks marketers deftly deliver the five “musts” outlined in About Money when launching a product:

1. Clearly deliver the message.

2. Confirm brand’s credibility.

3. Emotionally connect your target prospects with your product and or service.

4. Motivate the buyer to buy.

5. Create user loyalty.

The concept

Starbucks baristas have been prepped to explain the concept behind Latte Macchiato in a certain fashion. The New York Daily News explains the gist:

Our barista described it as a “flipped latte” meaning, it’s made like an upside down latte by steaming whole milk which gets added to your coffee cup and topped with velvety foam. Then, two shots of espresso are poured over the milk—not that you can see these layers in your cup.

If you’re offering the same product in a different form, you must get creative (e.g., conceptualizing an upside-down latte).

Along with the beverage’s new name, Starbucks offers customers something else—a barista who will cheerfully explain a new product in an exciting way.

When it comes to branding, consider the wheel. The goal is not to reinvent it as much as it is to rebrand its concept.

(Image via)

Topics: PR

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