Monday, October 23, 2006

Starbucks' Premium-Blend Culture

Starbucks as critique culturel? Don't laugh, it's already happening. "The chain is increasingly positioning itself as a purveyor of premium-blend culture," writes Susan Dominus in the NY Times:
“We’re very excited, because despite how much we’ve grown, these are the early stages for development,” said Howard Schultz, the chairman of Starbucks. “At our core, we’re a coffee company, but the opportunity we have to extend the brand is beyond coffee; it’s entertainment.”
And it works. Regular customer Bette Gottfried took her daughter to see the movie, “Akeelah and the Bee,”
precisely because of the involvement of Starbucks. “I trusted seeing the movie, because it was promoted here,” she said. After all, she liked the company’s coffee; she had already bought and liked several CD’s it produced and sold, compilations of music by Carole King, Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra. Why wouldn’t she like a Starbucks movie? She did, and now she’s considering picking up its latest cultural sales item: “For One More Day,” a book by Mitch Albom.
Dominus details Starbucks' plans to expand its "cultural portfolio" -- from CD's to books, magazines, movies, even artwork. Throw in discussion groups and the promotion of a wi-fi based community to "add to the emotional connection with the customer".

Starbucks has the beans to see itself as a mécène. But Dominus' disturbing article shows it for what it truly is: corporate culture, literally. When Starbucks pretends to promote products that are "out of the mainstream", or when Herbie Hancock exclaims "Going to Starbucks, you feel kind of hip," who are they kidding? It's just another chain that makes you feel like processed meat in Kool-Aid gravy. And like a dummy for having shed four bucks on bad coffeee. Nothing "out of the mainstream". Just plain corporate.

So thanks but no thanks, Starbucks. We don't need, nor want you to shape our culture. Just stick to your fake café-crème.
illustration Google Images

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