Starbucks: Good Move Or Poor Brand Management?

Update: Chris Clarke has written a response to this post pointing out that the store is being renovated at the moment and that Starbucks is providing the coffee gratis. While this post is about my reaction as a passerby to this scene and I think there are still lessons to learn, I say “bravo” to the person that came up with that idea if that’s the case.

In terms of lessons around this episode – if you plan to do something like this in advance, small details — like hanging a company banner from the table and hiding the garbage a bit more out of sight — can make a big difference. With those details fixed, this kind of customer service has the potential to generate great coverage instead of negative reactions.


Starbucks is a brand built upon luxury. The daunting menu options, the atmosphere… “the third place,” right?

Imagine my surprise when I saw this scene outside a Starbucks store on my way to work this morning:

Starbucks near Yonge & St. Clair at 8:30am on August 11, 2008

Coffee, cups, milk, etc. all on a temporary counter outside the store, complete with boxes of garbage (bottom right).

On one hand, this may be a good move that helps to stave-off the morning rush. However, in the long term, as a market leader in high-end speciality coffee, is this how you want people to perceive your brand?

What do you think?

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.