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February 13, 2009

Starbucks to Go With Via Product Naming for... Instant Coffee?

mcd-coffee.gifThe competition between McDonald's and Starbucks has been brewing for quite a while, but now things have boiled over. Starbucks is taking aggressive action against McD's sucker bait on two fronts.

Bad idea.

To begin with, Starbucks is a textbook case of how a premium brand name captured the hearts and minds of consumers in a relatively short time by building mystique, not around the products, but the experience.

Faced with a crashing economy and a brutal onslaught from the golden arches, it looks like Starbucks is walking away from its hard earned positioning in the mind of the consumer. Witness the "four bucks is dumb" campaign against Starbucks that seems to have won over some cash strapped consumers.

Starbucks has countered with cheaper food and an injunction to its servers to remind customers that 90% of their coffee offerings are under $4. All this, despite at least one poll that shows Starbucks customers overwhelmingly feel that the java is not overpriced.

Starbucks is offering less expensive eats in order to "take advantage of the new customer frugality" that's out there. But surprisingly, it is also going to offer, believe it or not, instant coffee.

starbuckscoffee.pngAgain, this is suckers bait. Starbucks is losing sight of its reason for being and trying to out McDonald's McDonald's. And it won't work.

Starbucks' supposed breakthrough product, Via, makes you think Maxwell House and Folgers, the everybody's coffee sold in supermarkets.

An unidentified Starbucks' source in a recent Ad Age article assures us that Via is "not just a sign of the times," but has been in development for quite a while.

Via, of course, means "to go" or "the way."

For Starbucks, it is the absolute wrong way.

I predict that Starbucks will regret these short-term knee-jerk reactions to McDonald's and will return to its historical roots and perceptions in the mind of the consumer.

Hopefully Starbucks will remember that they offer an experience that just happens to include coffee.

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Posted by William Lozito at February 13, 2009 10:19 AM
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» Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Faces an Instant Product Naming Problem from Name Wire: The Product Naming Blog
Today Starbucks will start offering its instant coffee brand called VIA Ready Brew to customers across the United States and Canada. I noted the appearance of VIA earlier this year in their Seattle and Chicago shops and I was extremely skeptical. I rem... [Read More]

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1 Comment

I think this a classic case of a company forgetting what business they are really in. I think you are spot on in your observation that Starbucks is making it more apparent that it is mass market food, thus making them not special.

I'd actually love it if they charged even more.

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