by Carlo Odello *
A flash of lightning across the serene sky of the American coffee scene: Starbucks, the giant of the 16,000 cafes scattered between the four corners of the earth, gambles its name. As Jason Daley’s optimal article for Entrepreneur Magazine reports, this summer the colossus from Seattle opened a new cafe. However, it was not called Starbucks; instead, they named it, "15th Ave Coffee and Tea," decorated in a completely different style and operated by a completely different mindset than the traditional cafes.
Why would an international chain whose very trademark became its driving force, a shamelessly global business that serialized the cafe concept, suddenly try to play it local? One simple motive: it needs to return to the community and connect to its territories to make the consumer perceive it in a different way. It is no longer the great homogenous chain, the coffee empire over which the sun will never set; instead, it is becoming a social place in service of the community.
The good news for Italian baristas: you are ahead of Starbucks. You are already local, you already serve your communities, you are already part of the social fabric; more accurately, you help build it. Besides, the Seattle colossus admitted it: Italy is a difficult market, with a capillaceous presence, rooted and diffused in its tens of thousands of cafes. Frankly put: a nightmare for the commercial logic of Starbucks.
The bad news for the Italian baristas: you are behind Starbucks. Most of you do not do any marketing whatsoever. The overwhelming majority of your cafes all look the same: even though they are not part of any chain, they are still characterized by that conformity typical of franchises, almost always offering the same banal and homologous products. And yet, one could do so much more with very little: in addition to paying closer attention to the coffee, which wouldn’t hurt anyone, why not start thinking of ways to make these cafes truly unique?
Dear Italian baristas, take from Starbucks a different way of marketing. You have the advantage of being local, something for which the American giant now aspires. One step further and you will be in the future.
* Trainer and member of the board of the International Institute of Coffee Tasters