Archive for the ‘starbucks’ Category

itunes cardsI don’t know about you, but I’m bummed over the end of the Starbucks and iTunes music promotion which ended last month.  The promotion ran October 2nd and ended November 7th to be exact, but every time I go to Starbucks I can’t help but look for the little “redeem-me-now” credit sized cards. Maybe I’m in a need deprivation state of mind?   

I remember first learning about the promotion where I get a free, new song every day in Starbucks. It made my morning stop so much more pleasant.  The first artist was Dylan and included other greats such as Gloria Estefan, Dave Matthews, John Mayer and many more.  Personally, I thought this was a great combination of two awesome products, coffee and music, brought to me by folks who know how to pamper my whims and do it so well, “Bucks” and “Mac”.  I don’t have an exact count on the total number of artists, but I collected 31 of those little redeemable cards and punched in 100’s of alpha-numerical characters to obtain the music goods.  How many did you collect?

But, don’t worry about my Apple/Starbuck-withdrawal-syndrome (ASWS).  I continue to frequent the place and now find myself trying to resist the urge to buy a CD every time I get a latte!  Maybe that was the intent…everytime I sip a latte I think of a song?!

 Hey don’t forget — you have until the end of December to redeem all those Song-of-the-Day cards.

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On a recent trip to the local Starbucks I was approached by a young girl selling Girl Scout cookies. In training for the Shamrock Run meant I couldn’t be interested, but it got me thinking about available flavors. So, online I went to find them. This process led me to new insight on how the Web is working better. First, consider my experience:

I Goo’d the Girl Scouts and jumped to a home page containing (many logos and other graphics) a graphic promo for the cookies. Clicking on the promo, landed me on the main cookies page, which shows a Zip Code search form, and displays a sign-up form to be contacted by telephone (huh?) for more information. Continuing to wonder what cookies they’re selling, I found an obscure link on the page that led to what must be an old cookie site, the one before the ad agency redesigned the home page. Links and text galore. Only problem: there is no mention of the actual types of cookies being sold.

Frustrated, I gave up on the site. So, the Girl Scouts were able to hire a colorful designer to spruce up the look and feel of the site, but the customer experience was lacking the basics.

At this point I went to Wikipedia and searched for “girl scout cookies”. The first result, wham: Girl Scout Cookie – Wikipedia

The page, after history and overview, shows “Varieties of Cookies”. And there was my answer. One search on Wikipedia got me to a community-driven page that answered my questions faster and easier than an organizationally-driven site, showing successive layers of expensive redesigns with competing interests of design, marketing, and branding. Wikipedia, free from all political concerns of the organization, just showed the information that I (customers) care about.

I’ve concluded that the Web is working better – due to sites like Wikipedia delivering what I want, despite what any particular organization may be able to produce.

This does prove a point about branding online: the brand is the customer experience, not the colors, logos or saying marks. The Girl Scouts site has all the “right” colors and graphics. I assume they attempted to create an emotional bond/experience for the user (using words I’ve heard from branding consultants). Wikipedia, on the other hand, just delivers the information in black text, on a white background, with blue text links. In spite of Wikipedia’s digression from the official Girl Scouts brand guidelines, I was able to recover emotionally, read up on the flavors, and consider purchasing an order for post Shamrock run.

My thinking is that a good rule of thumb for any significant website redesign is that you first compare how hard it is to find your most basic, important information on the site, versus on Wikipedia. If Wikipedia is easier, then reconsider options.

What’s your customer experience?

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I was feeling a bit “lagged” this morning and made my usual pass by the local Starbucks. I’m standing in line yearning the smell of freshly ground coffee, but the barista odor de jour is of burning egg/cheese as the line barely moves. Finally I ordered my mundane Sumatra grande coffee with a little room (no fancy Carmel macchiato-non-fat-extra-whip for me) and I was on my way. I put the coffee cup in the Toyota cup holder and drove a half mile down the road. On the free way ramp waiting for the stop-n-go congestion light to turn green I reached for the coffee, as I normally would. As I lifted the cup it happened again…the ever annoying large single drip of coffee on my shirt.

It’s a conspiracy. I believe Starbuck’s personnel are trained to use the vertical cup “line” as a navigational aid for lid alignment. As if they are blind-folded in the training basement they use the ridge in cover of darkness and coordinate where to align the lid with the sipping hole. And this area will not SEAL. So, I’m paying nearly $2 for a cup of java and I get the added bonus of having to dry clean my shirt. Do they know Mr. Kim at my dry cleaner?!

With more than 4 million customers a week, what are the odds that your coffee cup lid will leak? If only a .5% – that’s a lot of cleaning fees. Sure these cups/lids keep beverages at their correct serving temperature, and keep your hands comfortable on the outside, but with a significant portion of Starbucks’ beverage business as take-out, and the majority of those drinks being sold in disposable cups….can’t the barista gals put the lid on the cup in a way so it won’t drip?!

And now I’m reading in the Wall Street Journal about how Mr. Schulz wants to have 3X the growth and still maintain that “small store” experience and focus on coffee. What?

Dude, drop the Mr. and get a first name. It’s not your 1990’s Starbucks. First there is the aroma loss. Prices are up. Service like a fast-food chain. Job boards annunciating careers at every entrance intermixed with CDs and Cinema discounts. Dumbed down cookie cutter espresso machines that dilute and automate the barista experience reducing it all to a near clinical robot visit. Egg muffin ovens that waft burnt cheese and 6-pack scone containers making you ask just who are they imitating? McDonalds or Safeway? iTunes or the local Cinema-plex? They are about as far away from coffee as you can get in terms of brand extension.

My suggestion on your “theater of romance” is either train your staff different and/or find a lid that doesn’t spill coffee on my shirt?! And oh yeah, while I’m at it, how about making coffee with out grounds in my cup. At least 10% of the time I’m choking on them. And no I didn’t pay extra for them!

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A Cinnamon Dolce Week

I think I have an addiction to coffee. Not so much the substance itself, although I have my issues with it, but with Starbucks and all the trappings that comes along with the experience.

I laugh at people who pay a hundred dollars for a HDMI cable, or who are convinced that they need a $2,500 dollar Viiv PC to send e-mail to grandma, but show me a $4 Cinnamon Dolce Latte and I’m tempted to upgrade to Venti size.  Speaking of,  here’s the bucks scoop on the calorie content.

NUTRITION FACTS (venti size):
Cinnamon Dolce Latte with Sugar Free Syrup – no whip
Total fat….14g
Cholesterol …45mg
Cinnamon Dolce Latte with Sugar Free Syrup – with whip
Total fat….23g

NOTE TO DIABETICS OR SUGAR WATCHERS: The CDL with sugar free syrup still has as much as 24g of sugar!

So yesterday I ordered up a CDL, added a new Five-fruit Banana Muffin treat (it contains whole grains), picked up a new winter-themed mug, a Starbucks thank-you Card and a CD…paid $37 with the VISA which wasn’t max’ed out from the holidays and smiled out the door.

In the past 15 years I’ve gone from drinking whatever is in the break room — with cream-imitation, dairy dust — to grinding beans and speculating about how much better it would be if I brewed them in a Japanese/French press for exactly four and half minutes.

What I’m trying to say here is that it all started when I first sampled the Indonesian Archipelago Sumatra at a Singapore coffee shop in the Ex Pat district.  I give up. I am a slave to the premium coffee industry, paying for the privilege of waiting for my Arabica lover to come and have its way with me. Clearly I’m going to be buying whatever they sell me, so here’s what I think my coffee ritual needs to be:

Step One: Roasting

Buying beans from Starbucks is so last year.  Now I must experience the pleasure and satisfaction of selecting the best coffee beans online from all around the world and roasting them myself. I’ve ordered a commercial home roaster to set the beans on an appropriate journey.

Step Two: Grinding

Current coffee grinders dice coffee beans the same, without acknowledging the specialness of each individual bean. The Indi-Bean 3000 allows me to insert one bean at a time, then analyzes the surface of the bean with blu-laser technology and uses a diamond blade to carefully carve it into symmetrical chunks. The chunks slide down a Teflon coated chute, and it’s ready for the next bean. It takes 30 minutes to grind enough coffee for a 12-ounce cup, but wow, can you taste it in every sip.

Step Three: Water

For this I’ll need the perfect spray-mist for each morning’s cup, based on the bean, the outside temperature, the barometric pressure, and a host of other environmental factors. Some days I might be drinking melted arctic glacier water; the next, slightly filtered river water from the mouth of the Columbia. I’ll be in coffee heaven.

Step Four: Brewing

There are lots of ways to gently inject the water mist into coffee, but they all relate to time and temperature without giving much thought to setting a proper mood. The JavaStar 2200sx not only combines the grounds with the mist at a perfect 210 degrees Fahrenheit, but it provides the perfect romantic mood to get the coffee and the water ready to mingle in a most intimate manner. Sade plays directly into the mixing chamber and no coffee can resist the seductive power of this outrageously expensive device.

Step Five: The Cup

I don’t know about you, but I think coffee tastes best when served in a new winter-themed mug.

You’re likely asking about the beans themselves? You’ve probably heard about kopi luwak, the coffee beans that have passed through the digestive tract of a civet cat. Rest assured, I’m not going so far as to purchase cat excretions. Yet!

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I’ve noticed lately that I’m getting old-r. Maybe ’cause it’s that birthday time of year or my lack of patience? So, anyway I’m standing in the Starbucks line to buy a Grande Coffee and it’s freakin’ like 17 billion people long ’cause the only thing the dumb teenage boy at the register is thinking about is the teenage girl at the other register and some lady has her purse inside out trying to win the “exact change” trophy…Mac, drink your coffee and chill…

So, where was I? Oh yeah, I’m not sure I fit into the cool generation. Sure, I give it a try…I do “The Google” (as George dub-ya bungled), I blog a bit, I’m on Facebook, I Flickr photo’s, connect with groups on CollectiveX, manage calendars online with Eventful, I Digg lots of articles on the internet and post web pages/sites on Apple dot mac. But I can’t find clothes that I like, I can’t find music that interests me on mainstream radio, I’m tired of the barrage of commercialization and I make fun of both in an attempt to stay sane.

And speaking of music, how about that hip-hop Jibb’s song ‘Chains‘. Yeah, Boii, Jibbs who?! I don’t get it. I understand the lyrics and stupid hooks. I get the thump, thump, thump beat. But, several of my “cube-cruisers” in the office think it’s a great song and I can’t figure it out. They don’t wear a chain with ‘DEALR’ all spelled out in diamonds. They didn’t grow up in ‘da hood. They don’t have 24’s (rims) on a Range Rover with a Rhino Guard and spot floods. Most of them are driving a Pontiac Sunfire or Toyota Corolla’s… on 12’s… and squeaky brakes…with political bumper stickers, so why are they bounc’n to Chains? I must be getting old…because this represents everything wrong with hip-hop IMHO.

Speaking of old-r, I like buying jeans and breaking them in, but not the kind with rips in the butt where your girlfriend can store her hands while walking on latte avenue or missing knees and distressed to the point of Kleenex thin. But, I can’t find jeans that are ‘clean’ anywhere…I’m wearing a pair of “Calvin’s” now that I’ve had for three+ years. It’s time otherwise I’ll be no shirt, no shoes and lots of problems.

And while I’m still on music… here’s something Disturb’n the Peace every day… According to the charts, consumers everywhere are digg’n Hinder’s Extreme Behavior (parental advisory) CD and single ‘Lips of an Angel’…loosely based on an affair of sorts in a love triangle. While keeping in mind that media is based on what comes out of society… in a media based society is that song a snapshot of society… or just hype from the studio? Does influence flow from the media to consumers or do we influence media? A label won’t produce a CD if there isn’t a market. So, is the market craving these lyrics (or relationship concept), or are the lyrics influencing the market? Does a song like that ignite infidelity or does it simply act as a mirror on society’s accepted form of a relationship? I’m not sure I care, but it is curious.

And while I’m on relationships, social networking sites seem all the rage in these Web 2.0 days. I ran across a site called myYearbook.com (started by a 16 year old, bother/sister team). It’s an online yearbook for the digital age where more than 1M young people around the world – mostly teens – gather to socialize. It’s the youngest demographic and also the fastest-growing social networking site on the Internet. I pinged the site and as I waited for the page to load…OUCH! Yep, I’m getting old-r, but when I’m “banner blasted” with an ad evangelizing an ever elusive younger demographic:

“Did you know – 52% of MySpace Users Are Older Than 35″

I’m not even on MySpace so, that must mean I’m at that particular period of life at which a person becomes naturally or conventionally disqualified? Double OUCH!!

Not wanting any long term emotional distress on this age gig, I ventured onward to find some better news, and when I heard about a new report that estimates there are 117 million active gamers (defined as those who play upwards of five hours per week) in the U.S., more than half of whom (56%) play online games. Of all online gamers, the report from Nielsen Entertainment found that 64% are women. While teenagers still comprise the largest share of online gamers (40%), Nielsen found that 8%, or nearly 15 million active gamers, are 45 or older.

Sure my hallway of “cube-it’s” will gladly debate experiences with MMOG’s or if a PC can survive as a viable gaming system against the console giants or if parlor games really qualify as “games”. But, they are totally missing the point.

Us old guys gett’n old-r need to give it up for those old gamers…they rock!!

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