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Coffee Wars Part Two

Okay, it looks like the “infamous Starbucks memo of 2007” is still shaking up the blogosphere.

Doc Searls is now embroiled in the debate, talking about Starbucks “Heart & Soul.”

Also in the fray is Thomas Kohl who seems  to be questioning if the “soul” of a company is reflected in the experience of its customers, and asks, “Do Companies Have Souls?”

To which I responded:


Great post! I hope you’ll forgive me if I tend to agree with Doc Searls on this one, however.

Specifically, you commented that “The soul and its shape and quality affects that product in some way, though I would argue that even soulless companies can provide a wonderful experience.”

I would agree that a “soulless” company may be able to create a wonderful product, but I think that it’s the soul of the company that makes a great experience, and without it, that “wonderful product” will come and go quickly. I think this will be seen even clearer as we move toward a more and more “relationship marketing” environment.

Starbucks had the unique position of being the first to produce and market their product in the way they did, but as time progresses and more and more companies follow in their footsteps, it’s their “soul” (or lack of it) that is going to determine their continued success.

Starbucks “product” is not coffee. I can get coffee almost anywhere these days, in qualities equal to or greater than they offer. Starbucks product is the experience I have from the time I walk through the door until the time I leave, and that, sadly, is becoming more and more soulless.

A friend of mine likes to say, “you don’t make broth, it’s what comes out when the meat’s cooked” ie: the natural by product of the process.

If Starbuck’s “soul” is to create a great customer experience, while at the same time providing great coffee…this is what will come out. If it’s just pouring as many cups as they can, then their in trouble, as there are countless others who are willing to provide the former.

Sadly, my experience with Starbucks has leaned more and more towards the latter.

As far as your symphony reference, I would question how much greater the experience would be if its members were not treated poorly, and how it compares with those who aren’t.

The level of customer experience provided in SPITE of a soul is never going to compare with great customer service that flows naturally from the company’s ideals and mission (or it’s “soul” if you prefer.)

End o’ post

I think the bigger issue here, however, is the question: Can companies, with or without “souls” create a coffee cup lid that won’t splash boiling coffee on my important bits?

What do you think?

(about the post, not my bits, I get plenty of emails about that already…)


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One thought on “Coffee Wars Part Two

  1. Dinana on said:

    Uh…you’re wrong, Perry. I can’t get that unique burnt taste of Starbucks coffee anywhere else but Starbucks. If I buy a cup anywhere else, it really just doesn’t taste right.

    And, really…when I buy coffee, I don’t want to think about a soul…I just want my:

    Venti hazelnut two pump skinny with whip mocha

    I mean, it’s nice that they try to market themselves as a company with a heart, but that’s just so much marketing…even I get that!

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