I’m sure you’ve either heard or seen that Starbucks recently announced their new product, “Starbucks VIA” which is an instant coffee that is supposed to taste just like their brewed coffee. They are charging $3 for a 3-pack, and $10 for a 12 pack. They have almost completely redecorated their store so that it’s impossible to miss it and despite claiming that it’s 20 years in the making, it really didn’t seem to be flying off the shelves.
This weekend, they are hosting a “drink-off” giving you a free coffee of the day as well as a trial of the VIA coffee so that you can compare. I tried some (though I didn’t get my free cup of coffee) and thought it was certainly drinkable. While this approach might be sufficient, it seems like they are really missing the right way to launch the product (of course, they have plenty of opportunity to rectify it over time).
The problem is that they are missing the true benefit of instant coffee. It’s not the flavor, it’s the convenience. They certainly have all of the slogans oriented toward this message, but for anyone to even try it, they have to spend at least $3. Many people visit Starbucks not just for the coffee, but also for the experience (the smell, the music, and the memories). When the price is nearly equal to a cup in the store, it’s hard to sell the cost of a cup of coffee for the same price as you are selling in the store. If they want people to experience the benefit (having good coffee at your own convenience, which Starbucks clearly understands), they should do something different:
I would have suggested that they give people one packet with any drink purchase during the launch period, and encourage people to enjoy the Starbucks experience at their own convenience. The pictures on their adds indicate the story (i.e. woman with an umbrella).
It’s raining outside and you’ve got a lot to get done this afternoon. You would like to go get your afternoon cup of coffee at Starbucks, but it’s down the street and would take too much time on top of having to get wet outside. Why not simply heat up some water and have a warm cup of the same coffee you love right there at your desk. Get a free sample packet at your local Starbucks with your next drink purchase and experience for yourself a great cup of coffee in your own time.
Get them addicted to the experience, and then you can charge for it.
[Side note: Coffee is somewhat of a hobby for me (roasting my own mostly). I generally don’t care for Starbucks coffee if I have a choice, but they do offer consistency and I can’t fault them for the experience they offer. And they still beat out the hacks that have no idea about coffee, but open a coffee shop anyway. 🙂 ]