Starbucks Via – Instant Success, Long Term Failure?

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Kellogg Professor Tim Calkins has a great take on his blog about the new StarBucks Via instant coffee.  Tim’s take is that the coffee is not bad but that it seems to run counter to the Starbuck’s brand experience.  Tim explains,

Starbucks has long worked to embrace the coffee experience, the crisp beans coming from exotic lands all over the world, the grinding noise, the wonderful aroma, the ritual of precisely measuring coffee and water and then waiting for it to brew.  Starbucks has taught us that coffee isn’t just coffee.  There is much, much more to it.

On the surface, you could argue that instant coffee makes sense for Starbucks, right?  You can definitely see how the case for it was argued from a product perspective:  Starbucks sells coffee, instant coffee is a big market, Starbucks should sell instant coffee.   At least it is a coffee product and not something as crazy as Burger King’s “Flame” body spray (who doesn’t want to smell like a whopper).

The question is whether or not this adds to the Starbucks brand overall?  Howard Schultz vowed last year that Starbucks was returning to the basics.  Schultz was quoted as saying (see full article here):

By embracing our heritage, returning to our core — all things coffee — and our relentless commitment to innovation, we will reignite the emotional connection we have with our customers and transform the Starbucks experience.

What do you think?  Are customers going to have an emotional connection by brewing Starbucks instant coffee?

Count me in the skeptical camp on this one.  Instant coffee just doesn’t seem like an experience that you are going to rave to your friends about (or pay a significant premium for).

Check out the full post from Prof. Calkins here.

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