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Starbucks 2.0

I’m a coffee fanatic. Anyone that calls for recommendations on New Zealand gets the A-List. And in the top 10 is any of the hot kiwi coffee houses – AllPress, Mecca, Atomic. There are too many to name.

In the US though, it’s much more of a hit or miss affair. That’s why Starbucks remains attractive. Ok, the coffee isn’t off the charts great. But it’s so much better than the alternatives. And as a loyal customer, Howard Schultz seems to be doing a better job of getting it back into shape.

Their efforts to innovate – some of which are driven by listening to customers – occasionally get hammered. Take their new 15th Ave Coffee & Tea. Call it healthy skepticism and cynicism. Or call it brand extremism. Really.

Why cant a corporation create a unique brand experience? “There’s no way a corporate coffee chain can create an authentic neighborhood coffeehouse experience” they say. Lets see. The idea they can’t is not more limiting than suggesting you need to be small do it.

Look at what Toyota did with Lexus. BMW with the mini. McDonalds with it’s coffee houses (invented in NZ). Honda with super light jets. Anheuser Busch with micro beers.

Ok – maybe those that regard themselves as “more authentically tuned” than the rest of us common folks will be repelled by these experiments. But for the mainstream they hold the potential to offer a refreshing and exciting alternative.

Often, attempts to improve the core of a business needs to start at the edge. In a new place. They shouldn’t be viewed as a diversion. One of the great things about achieving scale is the ability to innovate and experiment in ways a single proprietor business might not. And then to take that learning and use it to inform the core.

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