Thursday, March 20, 2008

Go to the mattresses through your roots

Starbucks, the king of coffee, is in the midst of learning a very hard lesson, and we should all learn right along with them. Dazzled by the all the glitz of selling media and other brand extensions in their stores, they let go of what made them great: the best cup of coffee in town. They took a humble commodity and made it a fashion accessory, a brand someone can hang his hat on. And while they were off doing exclusive album releases and making deals with Apple, the enemies were encroaching: McDonald's and DD being the two most noticeable ones in my neck of the woods. Howard Schultz said on Wednesday, "We are going to fight to the death and not allow any company to take our (coffee authority) position away from us." They're moving forward by going back.

Losing focus on what initially brought success is a dangerous trade-off. To be honest I can't think of a single example of a company that moved successfully moved away from its roots. I also can't think of single person that fits that mold either. Where we come from and where we initially place our stake in the ground is a critical consideration because everything else we ever become largely builds on that decision. It's the only way to be genuine. It's where our passion and creative sensibilities are born.

Thank goodness for the return of Howard Schultz. I am a fan of the company and I was growing a bit sad seeing the baristas fumble around to deliver an "okay" coffee drink. I used to be one of them - as a recent undergrad I worked at a Starbucks in Georgetown part-time to make ends meet. I was pleasantly surprised on Monday afternoon when I stopped into one of my local stores and was greeted with, "Here's your grande chai. Let me know if it's not perfect - I'll remake it for you." I think they're successfully finding their way back to their roots.

The photo above was taken by By Marcus R. Donner, Reuters.

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