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Think before you partner with Starbucks

Some CEO’s I have met recently have asked me what I think about partnering with Starbucks, putting a Starbucks in their retail spaces. My answer to this question is simple... why?

 

One of the CEO’s I met this week asked me a very frank question. He said, ‘tell me what you think about us putting a Starbucks in our bank branches - is it a good idea?’

 

Here’s my answer short answer ‘why?’... and here is my longer answer... I hope you find it useful.

 

Before any organisation partners with another brand, you as the brand owner have to think about two things:

 

  • What is your business strategy and is this partnership a win/win 

  • Who are our customers and is the partnership delivering something exceptional and delightful to them - something they want that enhances their experience of your brand?

 

I am extremely skeptical when companies tell me they want to add a coffee shop to their retail outlets. My first thought being ‘is your product and brand so uninspiring that you have to offer the bribe of caffeine to get customers through the door’, and my second thought being ‘can’t you think of something original to offer your customers that inspires them to visit you?’

 

Whilst I have read that in some areas, adding a coffee shop does pay dividends, in the majority of cases, good quality coffee is ubiquitous, it is seen as part of the ‘standard service’, like a lounge is seen as standard in the airline business, or valet parking at a hotel. As service standards have increased, so have customer expectations. Having said that, there is something to be said for brand association, your brand could bathe in the glow of the Starbuck’s super brand, but do you really want your brand to be dwarfed by mega brands? 

 

What was once a luxury, is no longer so, and brand builders have to think more creatively if they are going to surprise and delight their customers... or do they? I believe that if an organisation offers the very best products that people want to use, served by staff that are engaged and passionate about their work, and consistently deliver a personal and relevant experience, there is no need for gizmos and sparkles. 

 

Organisations that begin to look at partnering with brands like Starbucks could be missing the point entirely... focus on getting what you do right before looking to others. If your brand is failing, take along hard look at your offer, break everything down into manageable sizes and ask yourself the tough questions. Change things, listen and be fearless. If you want to serve coffee in your stores, go ahead and do it, but don’t expect Starbucks to rescue your failing brand and put right what is wrong, they won’t. In fact they may make you look even worse than you really are - Starbucks is a beautifully crafted brand experience machine after all. The truth is, you have to fix what is wrong yourself through long, hard graft. 

 

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