I have mentioned before that I love Peet’s coffee. It’s not just me being contrary; I find Peet’s smoother than Starbucks. I find that there’s a smokiness or a slightly burnt flavor to Starbucks that I don’t like as much. Having said that, I’ll get SBUX coffee because it’s there. I make a special trip to Peet’s because it’s Peet’s (and I order online from them and have turned my mother and one of my friends into avid Peetniks as well). I’d bet a lot of other people do that same thing, based on the single store sales volume of beans over prepared drinks at Peet’s.
You can read more about Peet’s at BrandAutopsy (a blog which is mostly devoted to the SBUX marketing franchise, intentionally or otherwise) and the link in the post to the article in Fortune. I don’t think that there’s anything new about the commutation of Starbucks. When it comes to commodities like coffee (and mass-market retail), ubiquity squashes differentiation/excitement (duh). You have to be different to be successful but once you are successful, you aren’t very different any more, are you? People call you a sell-out for giving them what they want collectively because it’s not what they want individually. That must suck : )
I really like Patrick O’Dea’s straight-shooter style. Isn’t it funny that people reject marketing because there’s something slightly insulting about feeling marketed to? But then you get a CEO that says something like “our prices are about 10 percent higher than Starbucks” and you want to thank him for not yanking your chain. Hey, he’s still marketing, it just assumes a more educated or evolved customer: “People are trending toward premium products”, he says.
One other thing that I found very interesting in comparing Starbucks and Peet’s is that SBUX is very much about the in-store experience; it’s kind of its own thing. I’m ambivalent, because they seem to have establish a consistent but not amazing experience and I’d rather have amazing coffee. I find Peet’s retail outlets more low-key and less distracting. According to O’Dea, ‘we are indifferent to where you buy your coffee – in the grocery store, via home delivery or in our stores”. One of the things that I really like about ordering online from Peet’s (aside from the fact that I can schedule orders) is the experience of ripping into a bag of beans that was roasted a few days before. I think that the channel agnosticism allows the consumer to pick what’s most important for them, convenience, and in-store experience or freshness.
I guess coffee is one of those things that I feel strongly about and where the product is easy to understand and the marketing strategy is pretty clear. Plus, it is the first thing I think about in the morning.