Your Brand is Not A “Starbucks.” Can It Win?

By Patrick Nycz

3_starbucks_drivingI bet you know someone who only drinks Starbucks coffee if they can help it. I do. They seem to have a white Starbucks coffee cup in their hand every morning. However, as ubiquitous as Starbucks may seem, I bet if you asked everyone you see drinking Starbucks coffee you would find that only a small percentage of them say they ONLY ever drink Starbucks. The majority like Starbucks, but really just want a cup of good, premium coffee.*

What does that say about brand loyalty?

The best part of waking up...a big ol' bucket of Folgers!

The best part of waking up…a big ol’ bucket of Folgers!

To keep things in perspective about the size of the Starbucks brand, most American consumers buying coffee are NOT buying Starbucks. They are buying Folgers. This could be for a number of reasons. It might be seen as a testament to brand longevity. It could also be that a large quantity of people don’t view coffee as something for which they want to pay a premium price. Or, more likely, Folgers is more widely available and usually occupies the majority of the coffee aisle shelf space in most retail stores. It also helps that Folgers is priced to move.

But, for a lot of people, Starbucks did the heavy lifting when they educated American consumers on the joys of a cup of premium, dark roasted, richer coffee. At the same time, they singlehandedly raised the price that people expected to pay for a cup of coffee from under a dollar to over $3.

That’s great for Starbucks, but your brand is not Starbucks. Now what?

Just how loyal are you?

Just how loyal are you to your favorite brand?

Here is some encouraging news. Reports show that only about one quarter of Americans are totally brand loyal. So, the people that ONLY buy Starbucks could represent a pretty small segment of all the people that buy Starbucks coffee. Which means there is a huge number of people that, although they buy Starbucks frequently, may not buy it all the time. They bounce around similar high-end, premium brands.

That’s good news for all brands that are not Starbucks.

I was once enjoyed my coffee in a Starbucks people watching in the  Starbucks across the street.

Once, in a big city, I enjoyed my coffee in a Starbucks Coffee shop watching folks enjoy their coffee in a Starbucks Coffee shop across the street.

Premium coffee was once regulated to a few small locally owned coffee shops. Then Starbucks retail stores began popping up in cities and towns across the country. From expresso, cappuccino and lattés to dark roast, flavored and specialty coffees, people became fluent in the language of coffee. And believe it or not, most of these coffee lovers just want a good, premium coffee. They may care about brand, but they also know good coffee when they taste (and smell) it.

Enter your premium coffee brand.

The potential good news is that a new coffee brand does not have to convert that person that only buys the Starbucks brand. They need to invite trial of a person in the much larger group that is not strictly brand loyal to Starbucks.  They need the people who appreciate—and are willing to pay for—a good cup of premium coffee.

The potential bad news is the gatekeeper between your new premium coffee brand and the premium coffee loving consumer.  I’m talking about the coffee buyer at the grocery store, supermarket and other retail outlet. This person is your first “customer.” The buyer has to be receptive to your brand and have enough proof that it will perform the turns on shelf and sell through needed to justify earning a spot on the shelf next to Starbucks, Eight O’Clock, and a hundred other coffee brands covering the spectrum of quality and price including the reigning heavyweight contender — Folgers.

New brand stampWhether it’s a craft beer, a barbeque sauce, bacon, candy, or premium coffee, idc understands like you do, that it’s a business to business sale before it can be a consumer brand. The idc team works with brands looking to launch or grow market share by supporting the brand management team in product, positioning, sales and developing distribution strategies before we even get to consumer marketing.

The good news is, once the homework is done and we have a product ready to compete on the retail shelf, we should be poised to get “placed” by a retail buyer and start to carve out our share of the market.


About the Author: Patrick Nycz is the President at idc, an integrated strategic marketing firm. He is currently  working with idc clients to grow market share for their consumer brands. He spends his days, among other things, as a business owner, marketing strategist, account exec, cheerleader, salesman and excitable creative. Get connected to Patrick at LinkedIn, follow him on Twitter @PatrickNycz or email him at Also “like” idc on Facebook!
*To make this survey statistically accurate, please ask 3,000 Starbucks cup holding, demographically accurate people non pre-qualifying questions. 
This entry was published on October 21, 2013 at 8:51 am. It’s filed under brand, brand affinity, brand positioning, consumer goods, consumer packaged goods, cpg, marketing, new product, packaging, Patrick Nycz, positioning and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “Your Brand is Not A “Starbucks.” Can It Win?

  1. I think part of the reason Starbucks has been so successful is that they are everywhere…which means customers know exactly what they are getting. A Starbucks in New York City and one in San Francisco have exactly the same menu and drinks are prepared the same way. There are no surprises and if someone is going to pay $4 for coffee they don’t want to be surprised.

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