Branding Risk by Starbucks

Starbucks is launching a major marketing campaign for its new instant coffee, Via. A major part of the roll out is a huge taste test throughout their 7,500 cafes in the US and Canada.

One possible problem with this introduction, though, is how it impacts the Starbucks brand position. Starbucks became successful by selling an experience and an image. Otherwise, why pay so much money for a product that can be gotten elsewhere for much less? Now, though, Starbucks is starting a huge campaign to convince people that they can't taste the difference between a fresh-brewed coffee in one of their cafes and some powder added to hot water. The more successful the campaign, the more Starbucks will convince people that there is no need to return to their cafes.

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  1. Comment by Madalyn on 9/29/09, 12:51 PM

    Excellent point. But perhaps the brand is strong enough where consumers will still have the desire to go to the cafes for the 'luxury' and 'I'm treating myself' experience and stick to Via when it comes to being tight on time (and cash). So maybe now the question is how will Starbucks make the experience of visiting their cafes even better to keep conusmers coming back?

    Madalyn Carlisle

  2. Comment by Marc - Strategic Consulting on 9/29/09, 1:09 PM

    Good thought. It's always difficult to extend a brand, but obviously Starbucks has already somewhat done it by selling its beans directly to the consumer in supermarkets. I wonder whether that's helped or hurt their overall situation. And now they'll have three positioning segments to balance.