Starbucks has always had its own lingo and even stood above others in the coffee world, but I have recently felt their uniqueness slipping. They have changed their ordering verbiage so I no longer have to say I want a “tall nonfat sugar-free cinnamon dolce latte” but can instead say “tall skinny cinnamon dolce latte” – much less of a mouthful – and receive the exact same drink. When my husband recently ordeStarbucksred a skinny mocha, he wasn’t aware that it would have sugar free chocolate syrup (skinny at most other coffee shops he frequents defines the type of milk only) and it ended up tasting like a really bad peppermint mocha or something of the like. It sounds like he’s not the only one that was disappointed; Monica Eng had a similar reaction when she ordered her skinny mocha.

Tim Berry had a recent post about another new Starbucks marketing strategy – $1 coffees and free refills. All of this makes me wonder what their marketing strategy really is. Are they trying to compete with the McDonalds and Dunkin’ Donuts? Are they jumping on the skinny/low fat/low-cal bandwagon that is all the craze? Or are they just really not sure what their strategy is and who their target market is? It could be a combination of all the above, but I am not sure these recent shifts in their marketing will benefit them in the long run.

Sure, it’s slightly easier to order a skinny vanilla latte instead of a nonfat, sugar-free vanilla latte, and a $1 coffee with free refills is great, but didn’t the lack of these new additions more clearly define their target market and/or set them apart from all the other coffee shops?

Kristen Langham
Marketing Manager
Palo Alto Software

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