Peet’s Straight-up


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.

Comments (2)

  1. Heather, I was also impressed with O’Dea’s candidness and easy-gong style.

    I agree with you that Peet’s stores are more low-key and less distracting that Starbucks stores.  Next time you visit Peet’s make a point to count the number of promotional posters, banners, and counter card signs.  Do the same at Starbucks.  You’ll notice a major difference.

    Something I found remarkable in the interview was that O’Dea said the typical Peet’s location does almost 40% of its sales in whole bean coffee.  THAT’S VERY HIGH.  My Starbucks marketing experience tells me that as a % of store sales, whole bean sales at Starbucks is considerably less.  

    And yeah … I do blog a lot about my former employer.  I spent eight-years there and to an extent still bleed green.  However, I just checked and 64 of my 891 posts are focused squarely on Starbucks.  That’s just 7.2% of all posts.

  2. HeatherLeigh says:

    It sounded like the bean sales were high. I do think that Peet’s has positioned themselves on ths high end. I think that scarcity could have a little to do with it. People are accustomed to SBUX but they probably feel that they are giving themselves a treat when they get beans at Peet’s.

    I guess I can only speak for myself for the most part. But I do think that I am probably representative of their customer base. I don’t get in the car and drive somewhere for a coffee drink but if I am already out and about, I’ll get something. For that reason, SBUX is a more likely choice because they are everywhere. However when it comes to beans that are going to last me a while, I’ll definitely get in the car and if I am going to do that, I want a better tasting product.

    I’m probably not a typical Starbucks customer because I don’t drink all the sugary stuff. I think SBUX can draw a lot of people in with the blended drinks and the teas ands things, but not so much someone like me. I have a friend that works at Starbucks corporate and tells me how many pumps of syrup go into some things. I just can’t do that to myself, If I am going to have that much sugar (which is very rare), I am going to chew it 🙂 So I wonder if maybe some of the other Peet’s customers are the same where they are more focused on making their own drink at home than the wide varitey of different drinks.

    You are right about the difference in promo posters, etc. The Peet’s experience is more clean, quiet and relaxing. Starbucks is a bit of sensory overload. I’m not really tempted to sit down and stay a while (maybe they want it that way). It’s a significantly different experience.

    I’ll have to take your word for the % of posts regarding Starbucks. I subscribe to yoor feed so obviously I like the posts about Starbucks but I definitely think of you as the Starbucks marketing guy : ) I definitely admire the company as a brand.

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