Insights From Starbucks’ Marketing Chief

I just read an interesting Q&A with Terry Davenport, Senior VP-Marketing at Starbucks. Here are some of the lessons that many companies can learn from his comments:

  • The internet still skews pretty young, especially with MyStarbucksIdea.com.” The company’s online suggestion box gets input from mostly a younger audience, so they can’t assume that it’s fully representative of their audience. My take: Make sure that you understand this phenomena for any online feedback mechanism that you use.
  • There’s another new tool we put in place… the customer passion panel. Starbucks uses this demographically representative online panel to test ideas. My take: All firms should think of developing a standing panel like this to lower the hurdle for getting ongoing customer feedback on a wide range of product and marketing ideas.
  • It’s <the cup> one of the best marketing tools we have.” Starbucks switched the logo on its cup from green to brown and will be switching it back to green again. My take: Don’t underestimate the potential of branding on all of your packaging: product containers, shopping bags, and shipping boxes.
  • Vivanno has been in the innovation stream almost a year now… Davenport talked almost nonchalantly about the company’s stream of innovations. My take: Companies should have pipelines of innovations and a consider a reinvention goal like having 30% of revenues come from products that have been introduced in the previous 3 years.
  • Sorbetto we saw from a couple of different angles in Italy. Sorbetto is a new product that is currently being launched in Los Angeles; it was developed during a trend-spotting trip to Italy last year. My take: Make sure you develop some approaches for innovation that get people in your company to periodically think outside of the box.

The bottom line: Keep an eye on Starbucks’ reinvention efforts

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I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey.

Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum.

My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers.

I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

4 thoughts on “Insights From Starbucks’ Marketing Chief”

  1. Listening to Terry’s words- there’s some great stuff going on in Starbucks in terms of developing higher advocacy. However, there is still a missing link in terms of strengthening the relationship between local staff and local customers in each branch.

    In the early days this wasn’t the case. However, a centralisation or globalisation of the brand broke this valuable link where process and product booted out the need for this level of intimacy

    1. Martin: You raise a great point. Firms (including Starbucks) need to enable their brands to be “locally owned.” That doesn’t mean a different brand in every location, but it does mean that the brand needs to be interpretted or “tweaked” to fit the different environments across the company. The best internal branding campaigns promote the tennets of the brand, but create tools and programs for different parts of the company to interpret the message in their areas. Thanks for the comment. P.S. I love your title “the Feedback Guru”

      1. Thanks Bruce. Sadly, the over emphasis on the corporate brand and a reluctance to give much autonomy to branches themselves often prevents such a ‘feedback loop’ from happening. It’s a shame because staff and customers both want it and there are obvious gaps between mystery shop results and real customer views. By the way, we recently launched branchadvisor.com to attempt to overcome this impass, but early days yet!

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