I’m not one for trends (so much so that I’ve been called grandma since I was 10) but I am one for sugary treats, much as I try to fight it. Cotton candy, cupcakes, turtle sundaes, I’m putty in their hands. But the come and gone craze of this unicorn frappuccino? I just don’t get it. And from a customer experience perspective, I don’t think Starbucks should have either.
There are two main customer experience issues I see here. One, it’s not consistent with their brand. And two, it’s causing their loyal customers a problem. I’ll explain.
First, this color changing, taste changing, pink and blue craziness is not in line with the Starbucks brand. It’s too cheesy, too kiddy, and just, not their style. Starbucks typically has a subtle, understated style to them. Walk into a Starbucks store, and almost all of their decor is dark – brown, black, with subtle hints of green. And their drinks reflect this – coffee, tea, hot chocolate, almost all dark. There are a few exceptions, like herbal teas and the strawberry frappucino, but these are naturally pink. This unicorn frappucino is so ridiculously pink that it screams, We’re not to be taken seriously! And if nothing else, Starbucks consistently tries to be taken seriously. They especially try in the coffee community, which often doesn’t take it seriously. This gives them even more reason to do so.
Now, who should be selling this pink and blue color changing goofiness? Amusement parks, carnivals, or possibly something like Sonic Drive-Ins? Sonic already makes a blue drink, and shakes, and odd concoctions. This would be more in line with what they do. But Starbucks? I just don’t agree with them selling something that isn’t consistent with their brand. It makes them a quick buck, but cheapens their brand overall.
And another thing, it’s caused a problem for their loyal customers. How? Long lines, very long lines, from people who may not even usually go to Starbucks. People who may take a lot longer than the usual customer. Starbucks has something very unique from a lot of their clientele – extreme loyalty. Many of Starbuck’s customers visit almost every day. They know the spiel – walk in, see their favorite employee who knows their “drink”, wait in usual line, pay, get drink, leave. They know about how long they’ll wait when they go at their usual time, and they account for this.
Starbucks relies heavily on these customers. And should do everything they can to make their experience as easy, enjoyable, and fast as possible. And they do that, usually. But when you throw this surprise pink craziness in there, things go awry. The loyal customers get mad. And maybe it’s only for a short time, but what happens with the next trend? They get mad again. And again. And maybe, they eventually leave. Because Starbucks may have seemed like they valued the quick buck over their loyalty.
What does this mean for you? Stay consistent, and reward loyalty. Maybe you have access to a special resource that other designers don’t, a limited edition fabric that has a hefty tag and is extremely popular. But, you know it isn’t a good investment. It’s not a brand or style you recommend, you know it just won’t last. What to do? Pass it up. Always think long term. Always.
And rewarding loyalty? Same thing. Think long term. If you had an opportunity to book yourself for a ton of high profit projects, but would momentarily put loyal customers as a lower priority, don’t do it. Customers will sense the change, and resent it. Maybe they won’t leave, but, they will sense a shift. They might start to think, hmm, I’m surprised she would do this. They may even start to be a little more resistant when working together going forward, a little more sensitive to a misstep or conflict.
I respect Starbucks a great deal. Howard Schultz is extremely dedicated to the client experience, sometimes to the point of obsession. But on this, they fell short. Long term thinking is the way Starbucks should have gone. Instead, their thinking was as short as the time the drink was purple.
Let me know in the comments below what you think of the Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino idea!