15 Ave Table
by Cari Jacobs, Group Director, Brand Strategy, Saatchi & Saatchi S
You may have read or heard this week that Starbucks is launching three new stores in Seattle. Except these stores will not be called Starbucks. They will be named after the locations they serve. The first is called 15th Ave. Nowhere on the 15th Ave website will you find a Starbucks logo or reference, and the site is decidedly homegrown in aesthetics. Starbucks states its objective is to “offer customers new opportunities for discovery, a high level of interaction and a deep connection to the local community,” including activities like tea tastings, local poetry readings and musical acts. It also offers its welcome to customers to influence its sustainability efforts by recommending and becoming involved in local causes. So, can it work?
Certainly locally run coffee shops have worked for years. But is the local shop really just a front for a large corporation to “feel” local? Where does ‘local ownership by the people for the people’ stop and start when big business is involved?
It prompts exploration: why local at all? “Local” from a sustainability perspective means preserving local cultures, serving local societies and supporting local businesses beyond just your own—local foods, local money, local “flavor“ as a means of co-created commerce. Starbucks’ strategy begs me to wonder how much of the income will go directly back to the community and the local culture…versus the Starbucks community and the Starbucks culture?
At Saatchi & Saatchi S, we promote a methodology for building brands called Community Built Brands. We help our Clients create brand-inspired fodder, then courageously place it into the marketplace and into the hands of consumers, trusting and allowing consumers to vet, experience, measure and build our Clients’ brand with them. In the end, the consumer decides who you are, what you mean to them and how they value your brand. And they tell the world all over the internet. This methodology was inspired by the fact that a majority of consumers no longer trust what big businesses say. They want to be in charge and with the web, they are. When it comes to sustainability, there is no more authentic way to build your brand than to allow consumers to build it with you.
So, back to Starbucks and local…could this be Starbucks’ way of executing a Community Built Brand? Can they let go enough to allow the local coffee shops to truly build “local in, local out” experiences? Can Starbucks give the store experience over to us as consumers and trust our collective contributions will create something right for the people by the people? Will they allow us to own our culture and our individual interpretation of “the coffee experience?” Or is this really just another way to cash in on the next big thing?
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