Take a lesson from Starbucks

By Ken Gasque

Is selling beer and coffee all that different? I don’t think so. Since Starbucks is the largest retail coffee seller in the country maybe it would be a good idea to take a look at what they are doing and how they are doing it.


Know your customer! – Take the time to know your customer. Get an image in your mind of who your customer is. This is called a persona. One example of Starbucks customer persona is a 20+, hip, fashionable, high disposable income, college educated, and a person who is very socially conscious. It is important to them that Starbucks not sell straws. Who are your personas? Are they who you want? What is the customer experience they are looking for?

Four Ps

Marketing is about the 4Ps… Product, Place, Price, Promotion. Compare your 4Ps with Starbucks 4Ps.

Product – Starbucks offers top quality coffee, or they have branded it so that we feel it is top quality. They have a wide variety of product and they are constantly introducing seasonal products. While they offer food, it is a limited part of their menu and most of it is pre-prepared and is heat and eat.

Place – Starbucks uses small spaces and numerous locations. They have over 30,000 locations worldwide. They borrowed their strategy from Walgreens. Walgreens saturates their target urban area with their retail stores as close to each other as one mile apart. The theory is you are never far from a Walgreens store. Today they have 9,560 stores. Starbucks does the same thing. In some neighborhoods in New York Starbucks has stores on every block.

Because Starbucks understands their customer the instore atmosphere matches customer expectations and sets the experience. The design of their stores is consistent and clean—they took a chapter out of McDonalds. Ray Kroc, McDonalds growth engineer, had four rules:

  1. Consistent product from store to store,
  2. Clean, inside and out,
  3. Quality products,
  4. Good value.

Price – Price more than anything shows the condence you have in your product. Starbucks was the first coffee shop to offer a cup of coffee for $2.00. At the time most places were selling coee for $.15 to $.25 a cup with free refills.

Brands do not compete on price, but commodities do. Commodity prices are pushed down to the lowest possible price. Price says a lot about your brand… if the quality is there. Oer more—taste, quality, experience, image, value and price higher than your competition.

Promotion – Starbucks started by creating a brand by using a lot of graphics about product, culture and reection of the customer. They used innovative and unique applications of the logo everything is branded. Swag was a signicant part of the promotion and branding–everything from cups, hats, and water bottles to shirts. Can you use labels to promote your beer?

Product display is interesting and always well-stocked. Great design and creative posters are used to create part of the experience and promote new products. Many of the posters are printed at Staples for $5 and changed weekly. Packaging is part of promotion—bags, boxes, cups, cup insulators, napkins, gift boxes, etc. Are you changing often, updating and keeping the brand alive?

Starbuck’s website is a free course in branding, marketing and promotions.