For the Love of Latte

Breezing by Starbucks on my way to work, I patiently waited until lunchtime when I could order my beloved iced venti soy sugar-free caramel latte.  The hours without it seemed to drag on, as I longed for the energy and mental keenness I perceive that my latte gives me.  As I placed an order for Lisa Nickerson’s drink, a venti, nonfat, stirred, light whip,  one-pump dark cherry, one-pump mocha, I realized that the nearly $5.00 many spend on specialty drinks may not just be for the java boost.  In fact, many regular coffee drinkers prefer the taste of Dunkin Donuts coffee.

So how has Starbucks reeled in the intelligent entrepreneur and income-lacking college students alike?

It is no secret that Americans like their coffee.  54% consume coffee on a daily basis, with 77% consuming coffee yearly.  In short, market saturation is huge.  But unlike the abundant saturation of coffee shops on every street corner, Starbucks has identified consumers’ needs and capitalized on them.  Starbucks is an impressive case study of a company with a strategic vision that flows from CEO Howard Shultz down to baristas at the more than 16,000 locations in 50 countries.  This vision is to provide a home away from home for customers to simply “hang out.”  This second “home” was there for me during that semester I spent in Texas as well as the summer I spent in Barcelona with limited Spanish speaking skills.  Starbucks is everywhere – with its cozy sofa chairs, cheerful music and customized lattes drank out of a green straw.

Of course I recognize the unshakeable brand loyalty that Starbucks has instilled in me.  Starbucks has connected with the “home” in their customers, the deepest consumer-company bond.  Starbucks even throws us a few gifts, as they realize they are nearly recession-proof and causing debt in their most loyal customers.  Starbucks introduced free Wi-Fi in all stores during June 2010.  The treat receipt is back as well, enticing customers to come back after 2pm with their morning receipt for any $2 grande drink!

As a Starbucks fanatic, I can confidently say that I am in love and would never cheat.  In fact, we can only see the good in our loyal obsession.  But realistically, these new perks are just there to reel us back in.  Like an unhealthy relationship you keep trying to cut ties with, Starbucks comes back and manipulates its customers into falling back in love all over again.

Although a daily Starbucks habit could be traded in for twice yearly weekends in Vegas, nine pairs of designer denim, or bi-weekly eyelash extension upkeep, you do not need to be lectured as long as you are satisfied with the daily life boost your latte brings.

Disposable income is all about choices, and critics are likely spending their money elsewhere rather than saving.  At least we know that Starbucks is a respectable company with great employee benefits and positive world influence with a great future ahead.  And get excited: Beer and wine are set to become staples on the menu!  Starbucks is playing the “home away from home” card again by providing wine-induced gossip sessions after work.  Sneaky, but I’m excited for it.

What do other Nickerson employees think about the Starbucks culture?

“Why does there need to be a Starbucks on every corner in NYC?”- Venisse Wu

“I don’t see the point when I can spend half as much on a coffee at Dunkin’s.”- Rachel Licciardi

“Is there really any other choice? A (few) Starbucks a day… keeps, well, Lisa happy!”- Lisa Nickerson

By: Monica Mercer

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