Ever since the Seattle based coffee chain became international, so did Starbucks culture. The green mermaid logo adorning the front of all frappuccinos, chai lattes, iced coffees has placed itself in the same level as those of Coca Cola or Apple. This international phenomenon is now one of the greatest business empires in the global economy. However, Starbucks has not only succeeded in creating a very successful franchise scheme, it has also originated a cultural phenomenon and lifestyle that is implicitly imprinted on all of its products.
Starbucks fiends range from young entrepreneurs through teenagers all the way to high-power executives. So, what makes Starbucks appealing to so many different types of customers? Well, it not only has created a coffee experience that makes one feel at home by personalizing every cup of coffee delivered, but it has also created a symbolic status around its brand identity. Through the use of aesthetics, design and marketing, the American company has given further meaning to its logo, one is not only buying a cup of coffee, rather, one is purchasing a symbol not only of status but of brand affiliation. Starbucks has marketed itself as something more than coffee. This is reflected in the prices of their products which can be 3 times as expensive as some of its alternatives. So, Starbucks customers are not only paying for the actual beverage they are buying, but also for the added value signaled by the green logo.
Of course, Starbucks has a wide range of products which differentiates it in the coffee market, but its financial success goes beyond price differentiation and higher market value. Much like clothing brands, the coffee business attracts customer through perceived benefits, like status, quality or service. So, when purchasing a cappuccino at Starbucks, one is not only paying for the actual costs of production, one is paying for all those socially constructed meanings that have been associated to the brands logo ever since its inception and rise in the market scale. One pays for the “office space” or the “living room vibe” which are offered in all Starbucks franchises around the world; one pays for the “Instagram-worthy” cup; one pays for the overall perceived idea of what Starbucks and its customers are.
Some love it, some love to hate it, but whatever your position about Starbucks may be, next time you buy a cup with the green mermaid and your named stamped on its side, think of all that that cup represents. It is in all those intangibles that our culture and economy function, personalizing the collective and branding the common.