My Favorite Whine

18 10 2010

If necessity is the Mother of Invention, then desperation is the Father of Insanity. In the world of business, bad times cause companies to do crazy things. Sure, it is all well-intended and aimed at the preservation of jobs, bottom lines and corporate longevity.

But that still doesn’t mean those crazy things are going to work. Like Starbucks and their plans to add adult beverages, cheese and meats to their menus.

It’s a fairly simple formula, to be honest. Caffeine in the morning, and alcohol in the evening. What goes up, must come down.

But Starbucks is not a lounge or bar. It is a coffee shop. For SBUX to add booze and fancy foods to the menu would be like a night club adding coffee, pastries and wifi. Major league disconnect. Cup runneth empty. Grounds for unemployment.

That SBUX understands there are day-parts affecting retail is indeed quite smart. But that is neither invitation nor imperative to abandon mission and roots in an effort to cover the entire day. There is much to be said for staying true to one’s purpose and legacy; trying to dislodge the old and replace it with new in the minds of consumers is a crap shoot at best. Talk about risky business.

SBUX has tried unsuccessfully more than once to add breakfast items to its menus, but it is the coffee, muffins and scones that continue to be the best sellers. And with good reason. Those are the business of Starbucks. Consumers know SBUX for precisely those items, and nothing more. If I want a breakfast sandwich, I will patronize a place known for its food. And if I want a swank lounge atmosphere, I will go to a lounge.

Now naysayers may retort that if McDonald’s can get away with entering the breakfast market years ago (with the Egg McMuffin, of course), then whay can’t Starbucks do the same? Simple. McDonald’s was already in the fast food business. Creating and selling a breakfast sandwich was not a huge stretch for them or consumers to embrace.

But Mickey D’s has also made enough of its own missteps that other food vendors should be paying a little more attention. Steak sandwiches? McPizza? Can you say McFailure?

It’s like everyone wants to be someone they are not. Why not stick to being the best fast food eatery in the world? Or the best coffee purveyor?

I can just imagine people making fun of this little charade. “I’ll have a Venti Fat Tire.” “This wine has the bouquet of Juan Valdez’ donkey.” “The gouda is good, but it’s not very robust with this robusta.”

If SBUX wants to go into the night life business, then perhaps they should consider launching a separate chain with a unique name. My consumer mind knows Starbucks for precisely one thing. As crazy as an orange-flavored Coca Cola sounds to me, it is little different from an SBUX with microbrews.

So, you see, I really am in favor of corporate creativity and new ventures, but I think that once a brand becomes etched on consumer minds, everything must be done to maintain and build it. But only within the parameters of that brand. Do reach for grass on the other side requires a separate brand, not a longer neck.

Which leads me to my favorite whine: You can’t do that!

Dr “Pour Me Another Glass” Gerlich

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