Starbucks bucking the rules

So, Starbucks are going to try not placing some new outlets (in their home town!) not under the big corporate brand, but as individual identities, endorsed by the Starbucks name. We may argue (as I’m sure thousands are already) about the wisdom of this move and the greater questions it raises about the values of brands. But putting that to one side, what interests me is the fact that Starbucks did it… because they could! It smacks of the exciting early entrepreneurial days of business… the organizations roots.

Anybody who has been a small entrepreneur with a big idea knows how it is to discuss a major business action and make the decision to go or not.  Sure you do all the research you can, but a point comes to take a deep breath and a leap of faith.

Starbucks are way beyond that stage: I’m sure their research is very deep. But many big organisations can spend years of study and still not have the balls to try something so radical with their brand. In a cost benefit analysis, what is the potential cost to the brand? In the big picture of the Starbucks universe, if these few stores don’t work there will be no major damage to the brand, they will be taken back under the big umbrella and the financial costs of the exercise will be negligible. On the benefits side there will be a mass of first hand information that no focus group will ever give, and there is the balance of the opportunity cost of not doing it and never knowing.

I always find it sad when growing organisations replace entrepreneurial flair with accountancy expertise that usually mitigates against this kind of buckaneering activity. So, good for Starbucks and good for their (coffee) bean-counters. All the rest of us stood on the sidelines will learn from this.


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