“Convenience acts like anti-matter to fidelity. The more convenient something becomes — the easier it is to get — the more its aura dissipates. The more convenient something becomes, the less that item identifies its owner as someone unique and special. For Starbucks, excessive convenience dragged down the brand and made it commonplace.”
And so explains Kevin Maney, author of Trade-Off: Why Some Things Catch On, and Others Don’t, why coffee giant Starbucks came to a crossroads in 2007 with a major drop in its share price and customer store visits; the company still hasn’t fully recaptured its early luster. Starbucks increasingly traded its high fidelity for high convenience which rarely, if ever, works. Companies need to be one or the other, or risk confusing their brand. Starbucks stood for a luxurious and pricey coffee experience that consumers were willing to seek out and wait in line for – nothing convenient about that, which was perfect for the brand. As it became more ubiquitous through a juiced-up expansion strategy that included shops on every corner, packaged beverages in grocery stores, and a record label – it could no longer hold on to the same prestige it once had. Kevin quotes economist and author Tyler Cowen who said, “Once Starbucks became ordinary, it was committing suicide.”
7-11, McDonalds, and Dunkin Donuts are examples of brands that are high in convenience and don’t attempt to be high in fidelity. And as a result, they are incredibly successful. Starbucks is trying to re-discover its passion for coffee under Howard Schultz’s return as CEO, and place less focus on growth and more on the coffee experience. It’ll be interesting to see if he can recapture the brand’s early magic.
Rajan is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of BIG Marketing for Small Business. He's an award-winning marketing strategist who is passionate about branding, digital marketing and social media. He spent nearly a decade as the marketing executive at global IT firm Peer 1 Hosting and was instrumental in their explosive growth.