Have you seen Starbucks new campaign? The one designed to remind you of the "Starbucks story?"
From the announcement video to the ads themselves, Starbucks is making the first mistake of modern advertising - they're telling you when they should be showing you. Just as you never trust someone who says, "trust me" consumers, I think, will dismiss this effort as inauthentic and simply an attempt to generate additional sales.
To be fair, they have included an execution or two that are tactical and do provide a consumer with really good information that many, this blogger included, probably don't know. The ad to the right is a perfect example. I never knew it was a Starbucks policy to remake an order if you didn't like it. Now that is a GREAT message for an ad. Why? Because to truly gain the power of that message you need to spread the word far and wide, and in Starbucks case, fast. And full-page prints ads are still about the best way to accomplish that trick.
But what I find most interesting is the brand that was built on a cup not an ad, is doing a 180. Why now, almost 40 years after their start would Starbucks seek to reverse their model to save themselves?
I find it humorous that in the end of the video Howard looks into the camera and tells how excited he is that Starbucks can "now tell the true story of what Starbucks is..." as if they haven't had that chance over the last gabillion PR opps they've had.
The true story is that Starbucks has lost its way and that didn't just start yesterday. From over extending their brand to selling everything and anything even tangentially tied to the coffee drinking experience, they've changed. They allowed smaller, local and regional coffee houses to supplant them and redefine the coffee house experience. And now with a tight economy, consumers are cutting back on their expensive Starbucks Habit, which is hurting the company's bottom line. So what do they do? They run an ad campaign. Arggggg.. what a shitty solution to a fixable problem.
So what can you learn from this?
If you're a company that sells a high margin product which relies on a combination of perceived quality and unique experience to justify that margin (think hotel, restaurant, coffee house, spa, etc) then you have to double-down if you expect to maintain and expand in this tough economy. Just as advertising research has shown that advertisers who maintain or increase ad spend during economic downturns emerge stronger than their competitor who cut ad spend, you too can emerge on the other side bigger, stronger and more durable.
Invest. Invest in what makes you great. Your product and your experience. Run a day spa that is booking 20% fewer massages? No worries. Change your booking times to create gaps in between sessions. Then instead of finishing the massage and telling your customers "you'll be right back in 5 min to escort them out" tell them it is their lucky day. You don't have another appointment booked for 20 minutes so if they'd like to just lay there and relax for 15 minutes, they're welcome to do so. How cool would that be? What is 15 minutes of completely undisturbed rest, especially after a killer massage, worth to the consumer? Would they rather have that or 15% off? Would they be more likely to tell their friends about that or the fact you gave them 15% off?
If you're a restaurant do little things that don't cost you much but give the consumer a high perceived value. Become known as the home of the "First Drink is on Me" were you, the restaurant owner, personally welcome your guests to their table and buy the first round of drinks. How cool is that to a consumer? Not only are they personally greeted by the owner or chef, which in an of itself is unique, but you're saving them $10-$15 by buying their first drink. On a $100-$150 dining tab (easy in a white tablecloth restaurant) you just gave them a 10-15% discount -- no coupon required. You discounted but you didn't because a) there is no coupon or ad screaming % off in the local newspaper and b) what did a couple of shots of whiskey or glasses of wine really cost you in real dollars?
The bottom line is that in today's hyper-connected, the economy sucks world, consumers are talking about great experiences or brands that are offering them something of value, even if that value is more expensive than the competition. But please, don't run an expensive ad campaign to tell them. Just show them how you're different or better and then let them do the talking for you. If you're really worried they might not, then give them access to a tool to talk on your behalf. But through it all remember, consumer are loyal to that which gives them the greatest value in their own mind. The trick for you today is to really examine your customer base and get inside their heads. Find out what makes them tick. Why do they patronize your and then amp it up. Go beyond their expectation. Surprise and delight them. Do that and I think you'll not only survive but thrive.
Anyone else have a thought or two? Share it here for the rest of the group to read. Let's all get smarter together shall we?