Starbucks Invites Customers to Share Over A Cup of Coffee

April 9, 2008 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

It’s been said that Philadelphia merchant John Wannamaker once quipped, “I know half my advertising budget is wasted. I just don’t know which half.” He would have loved MyStarbucksIdea.com.

After Starbucks much buzzed-about annual meeting in mid-March, the coffee giant launched a micro site called “My Starbucks Idea” that gave Starbucks faithful the opportunity to tell the company what they thought they were doing right, what they could do better and what they as customers really wanted. The site was promoted on the company website and by small in-store POP that simply asked, “Have an idea for us?”

Prior to the launch, Starbucks chief information officer Chris Bruzzo said he was hoping a few hundred ideas would trickle in during the first few days. By the end of the first week, more than 100,000 had been submitted.

MyStarbucksIdea.com has been described as part focus group, part corporate blog and most recently, as a site with the feel of an online social network. Which begs the question? Is there any company who could better pull off the startup of a new online social network that Starbucks? Isn’t it just a matter of time before the Java Brotherhood unites in their want for that anyway?

What’s truly eye-opening about the site is the perspective it has thrown on traditional focus groups. For fractionally more than they would have spent on one or two secluded evenings behind frosted glass, Starbucks has gotten heartfelt input from more people than live in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Burbank, California, or Charleston, South Carolina. Ideas, concepts and suggestions that once implemented, will fuse an immediate bond between customer and corporation. And for the rest of us, another reason to visit.

According to the press, many have been critical of saying it’s nothing more than an overgrown suggestion box that will quickly grow stale. A repository for ideas that will never get a shot, never get implemented and never get acknowledged. That’s a possibility.

But knowing Starbucks and their penchant for not just breaking the mold, but obliterating it, what’s more likely? That they’ll throw out this site, let everyone have their say, and be done with it. Or that they’ll put together a team of innovative thinkers and doers who’ll take the best of the best ideas and find a way to make them part of the Starbucks experience. From all indications, they are already listening and have plans to implement free Wi-Fi across the board, a valuable Starbucks rewards program and half a dozen other cool ways to connect with a customer base 98% of corporate America would trade theirs to get.

MyStarbucksIdea.com is a great idea for them, and will certainly be a case study for other companies moving forward. Admittedly, it’s possible the Starbucks online social network thing is a bit of a stretch. But I do know this. If I was Facebook or MySpace, I think I might be checking my rearview mirror between Frappuccinos.

focus groupsnew ideassocial networkingStarbucks

Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


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