Starbucks used to be considered an upscale brand.
The company was founded with the purpose of providing premium coffee. CEO Howard Schultz modelled the first locations after Italian espresso bars where people met to have intellectual conversations.
Over the next several decades, Starbucks became ubiquitous, with nearly 22,000 stores around the world.
These days, Starbucks is too popular to be cool.
While Starbucks used to appeal to premium consumers, it is now closely associated with the masses. Primary competitors include Dunkin’ Doughnuts and McDonald’s.
Starbucks beverages, especially pumpkin spice lattes, are associated with the term “basic bitch,” which is frequently “used to pejoratively describe people who like popular, mainstream products or music,” according to Wikipedia.
Today’s hip, upscale, urban consumers are eschewing Starbucks in favour of other options like Blue Bottle coffee, which just raised $US25 million for expansion.
Widespread popularity is the “kiss of death for trendy…brands, particularly those positioned in the up-market younger consumer sectors,” industry expert Robin Lewis writes on his blog.
Faced with a basic image, Starbucks is now desperately trying to retain its premium status.
Starbucks acquired the trendy La Boulange baking company in 2012 to revamp its food offerings. But after many customers complained the food was too “fancy,” the company recanted and started offering some products from the old menu like lemon cake.
In addition to the new pastries, Starbucks has added trendy items like coconut milk and cold brew iced coffee to the menu.
Starbucks also just launched service that delivers beans three to five days after they are roasted at Starbucks’ Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room in Seattle.
Starbucks has launched a new delivery service for fans of its most premium coffee beans.
The freshness comes at about double the price of the regular coffee.
Some analysts have noted that Starbucks’ recent “#racetogether” campaign which encourages baristas to talk about race relations with customers is another desperate attempt to maintain its premium status.
“With the race campaign, the brand may have been looking for a way to break away from its competitors,” the New York Times reported.
“The sole objective here is to try to increase the brand’s cultural relevance,” University of Southern California professor Jeetendr Sehdev told the Times.
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