The Great Starbucks Masquerade

Thursday, 13th August 2009 at 8:00 UTC Leave a comment

Heads up, Blighty, there’s a new plan brewing at Starbucks HQ over there in Seattle, and it probably won’t be long before they test the water over here with it! In areas where people have been reluctant to visit their monotonous coffee shops, they’re going for a rebranding, an attempt to appear like the indy coffee shop many people seem to be craving.

You can read all about this new idea here and see their site here. The idea appears simple enough; if people won’t sup, create a brand new brand for your coffee, and hope it tricks people into buying a product they might otherwise want to avoid. Unlike Pasta Hut, which was mostly just stupid, and in which case, everyone knew it was Pizza Hut all along, this is about people not realising what they’re buying.

OK, I’m being a bit harsh here, but I do think I’d feel pretty cheated if I found out the new place down the road that I’d tried a couple of times was actually a Starbucks. I almost wonder if there’d be a case under the Trade Descriptions Act for suing them! Could be an interesting one to try…

Perhaps it says something rather encouraging about the extent to which Starbucks injustices has become so well known about. I suppose in a way that must mean its something to celebrate, but I almost wonder if they’re just waiting for people to hold protests outside in order to get a load more publicity. Or perhaps they’ve been naive and not realised that that’s probably coming to them if they wind people up.

It was interesting getting involved in the comments on the blog I linked above; I was kind of expecting a pretty mixed response, this being a church in Seattle, it would be a bit like attacking Nestle in York; there are plenty of people who’s economic survival depends on Nestle jobs here, so its not a surprise that it can be a bit unpopular to stand in the middle of town and hand the postcards out for Baby Milk Action or whoever.

We somehow expect large organisations to behave honestly, perhaps because we think they have a lot more to lose if they start to wind people up. But the reality is, beyond a certain size, the reverse becomes true; those who are hooked on the product don’t really feel in the mood to complain and become rather compliant and somewhat blinded to the problems that begin to arise. In a way, this is a sign of just how much any corporation will become prepared to abuse its power to continue growing when growth seems to be slowing to a crawl. Its a good indication of why the “grow and keep growing” model is so very problematic.

I might be being unfair here, as many companies have tried to lie there way into people’s hearts, but I don’t recall many trying to hide behind a completely different mask to grab people who actively resist them. A worrying development, and one I, and I’m sure others, shall be on the look out for in the UK.


Entry filed under: America, Ethics, FairTrade, Marketing, Materialism.

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