Assessing the Starbucks brand

Each week in association with retail and marketing consultancy Pragma, looks at a high-profile UK brand, assessing its performance against a range of criteria and offering suggestions to improve its overall score. Marks for each section are given out of five stars, while the overall rating is given at the end of the review.

Brand ***

When Starbucks entered the UK market in 1998, it was the first coffee-shop chain to make an impact. Since then, the brand has grown impressively and is now synonymous with the high street. Its American heritage is a big part of the brand and there is a strong association with a down-town American life-style. Starbuck’s philosophy is that any store should be regarded as home; anyone should feel as comfortable there as they do in their own front room. The novelty of Starbucks, however, has worn off, and care must be taken that it doesn’t become the next McDonald’s. Starbucks’ focus on the local community, growers and sustainability will help.

Experience ****

Providing a consistent experience is what Starbucks excels at. The store atmosphere (the décor, lighting, seating, fittings and fixtures) are identical – what differs is their configuration, based on the customer mix in store. Stores used by lots of professional people have more, smaller tables with wireless connection in store, compared to stores used by lots of students who have more armchairs and big tables.The order process can be confusing for any customer who is not experienced with Starbucks, potentially missing out on up-selling opportunities. Sometimes queues are long and there is a long waiting time for a drink.

Product ***

Among coffee drinkers there is split opinions about the quality and taste of the coffee. However, when looking at the number of full stores, it is clear that the coffee, as well as other products, are rated highly by consumers. Starbucks is no longer really seen as a coffee specialist as much as other players in the market such as Caffé Nero. However, Starbucks’ leads in terms of product innovation, with products such as Frappuccinos, Tazo teas and their all-time favourite gingerbread latte drink. The food offer has been improved, providing a wider range of lunchtime options.

Value Positioning ***

Coffee in Starbucks is certainly not cheap but its pricing is in line with other similar coffee chains. The food offer, however, is relatively expensive for what you get and this may prevent more customers buying it. People don’t spend in Starbucks just for the coffee, but for the experience.


1. Communicate local and community aspects strongly – it is a global brand but it doesn’t have to be a corporate giant

2. Consider updating the stores – they are starting to look a little frayed

3. Further non-drink product development to include wider food options e.g. salads / soups

4. Educate consumers regarding coffee quality and origin – gives more of a sense of expertise

Overall: ***

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