Starbucks Coffee Experience

Adaptive Path, one my favorite sources on experience design, in response to a recent BusinessWeek article, shared their thoughts on why “Starbucks is not about the coffee.”

While Adaptive Path makes some great suggestions on ways to refocus enhance the overall Starbucks experience, the following statement concerns me a little:

“…I don’t think it’s about The Coffee. Starbucks has to deliver a basically good product, but they don’t need to deliver a superlative product. And they definitely don’t need to sell $1 coffee that sends exactly the wrong message, in that it moves Starbucks to the bottom of the pyramid, and turns them simply into a volume operation.”

I agree 100% that Starbucks doesn’t need to sell $1 coffee. That only waters down the experience and sends them down to a level of play that Dunkin Donuts and McDonalds are currently fighting over. But I think you have to be careful saying that Starbucks is not about coffee. And if you think the quality of the coffee doesn’t matter, tell that to the coffee connoisseurs, and be ready to riot that will ensue when you start fooling around with the production of their magic beans.

Starbucks is an experience, but great coffee is what makes the experience authentic.

So what does that mean for Starbucks?

Focus on enhancing the Starbucks experience, all while keeping coffee first in the mind.

This reminds me of a post that Paul Williams’ Starbucks and the “Aroma First” Rule from earlier this month. He lays out the clear need for focus, but also makes direct ties to how coffee (specifically the aroma) plays a crucial part in the experience.