[vendtalk] Reuters:The hidden meaning of the hidden Starbucks logo -- The growing appeal of the locally owned small businesses.

Kevan Worley kevanworley at blindmerchants.org
Fri Dec 4 15:36:36 UTC 2009

Many of you know I've been a huge supporter of bringing branded concepts
into our Randolph-Sheppard; however, in recent months, studies and media
reports have shown clear indication of a reverse of the all brand
preferences of consumer. Look at the following article from Reuters. 


16:26 November 27th, 2009

e-hidden-starbucks-logo/> The hidden meaning of the hidden Starbucks logo

Posted by: Jon Cook <http://blogs.reuters.com/archive/author/joncook/> 


- Bryant Simon is professor of history and director of American Studies at
Temple University. He is the author of "Everything but the Coffee:  Learning
about America from Starbucks". The views expressed are his own. -

Last week, Roy Street Coffee and Tea, located at the corners of Roy Street
and Broadway in Seattle, opened.  This is another one of those stealth
Starbucks - Starbucks stores without the Starbucks name over the front door
- the coffee giant has been opening in its hometown and in London as of
late.  Like the other shops of this new vintage, this one is appointed with
antique-style furniture, retro lighting, and a distressed looking table top
salvaged from an old ship.

The rough-hewed interiors of these not Starbucks Starbucks haven't really
mattered to the journalists and bloggers who have been writing about them.
They talk only about the naming patterns in Starbucks' most recent branding

To them, the names of the stores represent a brand crisis.  Quite rightly,
they point out, when a brand hides its own identity, it is in some ways
admitting defeat, saying that its name - a central part of any brand - has
lost value.  When it comes to Starbucks, all of this is true, but the
question is why?  Why has the Starbucks brand lost so much value that it has
to hide from customers and act like a small business?  The answer to these
questions rests with communities and consumers, what they care about and
desire the most these days.

Over the last several years, a quiet but decided shift in buying patterns
has taken place.  Really, there is something of a velvet revolt or a quiet
rejection of brands going on.

In the early years of this century, the then mayor of Baltimore Martin
O'Malley begged Starbucks to come to his city.  He thought these big name
stores would lend his de-industrializing hometown a much needed
upper-middle-class sheen.  Same with the residents of Landsdowne,
Pennsylvania.  In 2004, the town had several mom and pops diners and coffee
shops.  One day, though, a team of local residents lined up in three rows of
forty in an empty lot where a 7-11 used to be.  When the photographer gave
them the sign, they turned over the letters.  Their message read: "Got
Location! Need Starbucks!" Afterwards, the Greater Lansdowne Civic
Association sent this "visual petition" to Starbucks headquarters.
Landsdowne never got a Starbucks, but Benicia, California and a lot of other
towns got plenty of Starbucks.

By 2007, Benicia didn't want them anymore.  When Starbucks tried to open a
fifth store in the northern California coastal town some residents balked.
"It's a serious problem," a former city councilor and owner of an
independent coffee house, told the Contra Costa Times (By Danielle
Samaniego, "Benicia Looks at Limiting Chain Stores," Contra Costa Times,
Feb. 16, 2007). "People need to wake up to it," she proclaimed, "When you
drive through a town and everything is so homogenized that you can't tell
where you are anymore, that's a problem."  She had an idea.  Limit the
number of chains.  Ban them even.  Encourage, instead, small, one-of-a-kind
businesses.  Soon her idea gained the support of local officials looking for
ways to curtail the opening of more chain stores without violating state and
federal laws.  When the city council started to debate a ban on all
"formula" businesses, a city official told the Contra Costa Times, "it's
about protecting the unique character of the commercial areas of Benicia,
and there's nothing unique about a store that has the same look and style,
not just here, but everywhere." (By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen, "Officials Look at
Ways to Prevent Starbucks Overflow," Contra Costa Times, Feb. 9, 2007)


This wasn't just about Starbucks.  This was about a growing resistance to
brands, and their dominance of the landscape, symbolized by Starbucks. With
their feet and their purchases, individual consumers are revolting as well.
Scholars have started to call this trend, "brand avoidance," as consumers
worried about the larger social and economic impact of brands on society
look for other options, even if those options cost a bit more.  In growing
numbers, buyers are choosing the local over the brand, the farmers market
over the supermarket, the Main Street strip over the mall.  Same with


While Starbucks closed down outlets in 2008, citing the New Recession as the
cause, independent coffee houses, the Seattle Times noted, brought in new
customers and they didn't cut prices.  Over the last few years, in fact, the
number of independent coffee houses in the U.S. has jumped past the number
of chain store outlets, and now represent 54 percent of the coffee market.

How can we explain these consumer choices and the growth of these smaller
business sectors?  Consumers, just like the towns they live in, are starting
to think that going to the branded store - to Starbucks or Cosi or Chipotle
- costs too much.  It makes them look too ordinary and too much like
everyone else.

This is what those not Starbucks Starbucks stores tacitly acknowledge. By
hiding their logos, they speak to the growing appeal of the locally owned
small businesses.  (Remember the stealth Starbucks stores are individually
designed and named after the streets they are on - the places themselves.)

Apparently the experiment isn't working.  A former Starbucks insider said
that Seattle's 15th Ave. Coffee and Tea - the first of the new not Starbucks
stores (its website, by the way, is called www.streetlevelcoffee.com) - is
doing only a third of the business of the regular green-logoed Starbucks
store that used be at that site.

Perhaps consumer really do want something more than branded artifice; they
want something genuinely local.

The revolt against sameness may actually be real, too real for a fake
Starbucks.  And certainly this growing rejection of brands presents an
opportunity for entrepreneurs and small business owners to create something
authentically local for their customers.


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