Sunday, October 28, 2007

Coffee remade

You've got hand it to Starbucks. Regardless of what anyone may think about the political corporate machine that made it okay to charge $2.50 for a cup of black coffee, they're incredible innovators.

I was waiting for my friend, Monika, so we could take a walk in the Central Park today (the weather has finally turned to autumn in NYC) and stopped into the Starbucks on the corner to grab a hot apply cider. Upon entering I saw a sign that intrigued me: "Embrace insomnia." This is what I've been saying all along to my fellow insomniacs! And to help you out, Starbucks has created a safe haven for us by being open 24 hours. Incredible. Genius.

In their recruiting efforts, Starbucks has placed posters of real baristas in windows who describe why they love working for Starbucks so much. If you've got a captive audience waiting in line, why not try to convince them to lend their expertise on the other side of the counter? Logical, yet innovative.

Starbucks has become known for their groovy tunes, and in partnership with itunes, they now help promote music in their shops by having baristas pick a song of the day, and making it possible to always know who's singing the song that's currently playing, and download it direct from itunes with the click of a button. Oh, and in cooperation with T-mobile, wireless Internet is free. Brilliant integration and partnership.

I'm waiting in line to get my cider, and the book The Kite Runner catches my eye. Attractively displayed, Starbucks is promoting the book and the movie. This is alongside their terrific gift assortment as well as the exclusive new release of Joni Mitchell's album.

Now that I've just spent close to $3 for a cup of heated up apply cider, I head over to what I'll call the accouterments bar to put some extra cinnamon in it and I have an array of well-designed literature in front of me: social responsibility pamphlet, t Mobile hotspot, Starbucks retail careers, and comment cards (mail it in without even having to put a stamp on it). Now I not only enjoy my beverage, I feel fantastic, even self-righteous, about having purchased it.

Why would you ever leave - hot drinks, food, books, music, a comfortable seat, a job, and a celebration of an illness that has kept me awake for most of my adult life. This is exactly the point....the longer you're here, the more you'll spend. Starbucks has laid waste to the idea that your core business is your only business. Arguably, they've switched the paradigm of retail. I'm not visiting for the product - I'm there for the atmosphere that only they can create for me. Talk about competitive advantage! I wonder how they'd feel about me setting up a cot in the corner.

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