Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Starbucks de-brands

So, The Future Laboratory says the best way to face the future is by "expecting the unexpected", but here's something I never thought I'd see. The brand that invented the 'third space'. The brand that introduced the notion of a traveling cappuccino. The brand that put hundreds of independent coffee houses out of business. The brand that you see on literally every street corner of the Western world. Starbucks - that massive global brand - is about to begin trials of unbranded stores in its hometown of Seattle. According to Marketing Week, the so-called '15th Avenue Coffee and Tea' will "revert to Starbucks' original positioning as a quirky, local coffeehouse [and] it will run poetry events and sell unbranded coffee as well as wine and beer". Can big global brands do this? Can they just take it all back and pretend all that world-domination stuff was just a 'phase'?

The most galling aspect of this de-brand is that I'm pretty sure everyone will love it because the timing is absolutely perfect. The very people who, just two or three years ago, were strutting around with a Chloe 'it' bag in one hand and a Starbucks double latte in the other, are precisely the Blingamalists now investing in a pared down Philip Lim carry-all, having their Net-a-Porter purchases delivered in black bags, considering the Waitrose 'Essentials' range and, from next week, getting their Starbucks-standard caffeine fix in unmarked cups. It's genius. Goddamit.

(Photo via