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Rikka Gallas

While I appreciated the wit that I've come to like about your marketing approach and your blog, I appreciated the message you closed with twice as much. Thank you for writing on this topic.
Also, it's wonderful to hear about your time at IMTS. I was involved in that gargantuan trade show back in 2008 and loved every minute of it. It was the pre-show exhibitor function in 2010 that introduced me to you and all your marketing knowledge.
By the way, Rikka is a girl. :)

Ed Oakley

Starbucks not my friend?!! OMG!

Well, Steve, I guess that validates my decision many months ago to only go to Starbucks when I'm out of town and don't know of a better place.

Recently, I used my Starbucks app to guide me via taxi to a non-existent Starbucks store across Bucharest. Was my informing the company of that fact worth a free cup of coffee? Nooooo...

Thanks for the post! Got me thinking about my own business. Where have we done similar things?

Kevin Graham

Excellent bit - thank you for your clarity. Treat customers like KINGS (or QUEENS).

They pay your salary - don't ever forget that.

Josh Richards


"Matthew G"
director, Global Brand Loyalty



Thanks for the great write up. I just reached "gold" and was kind of excited (i cannt drink milk. Free soy is great). Now I just feel that was a waste of time. Back to local coffee!

Steve Markowski

Well, if marketing is everything you do to to make your product the obvious and only choice when your customer is ready to buy, I think the folks at Starbucks left their marketing hats in the closet. IMHO, just because accountants can type copy, it doesn't make them marketers.

Frosting Fran

As always, thank you for your article. I did not know that refills were free at Starbucks. I have a gold card and have always been charged! In our business, we help to promote our customers' businesses (for free) because by promoting them, we are also promoting ourselves. Their success is ours as well. But we're a small business, we love what we do, and we appreciate our customers. Large businesses appreciate money. PS - thanks for the orange shoelaces!


Very similar to the changes Air Canada is making with their "Elite" program. Since I can remember (and I have been a member since 1992) there has been only 1 level of Elite (or Gold status when travelling on Star Alliance partner airlines) Now there are 3 levels of Elite.
- Elite 35 (the old standard) is now really a silver membership with several perks removed)

- Elite 50 is close to the old benefit package but with a couple of nice options removed (like free access to preferred seating in economy) and it is now the basic Gold membership.

-Elite 75 is now the one with the full benefits of the original Elite status......what does this mean? Instead of 35 flights or 35,000 status miles you only have to do 75 flights or 75,000 status miles to keep all of the same benefits.

Let's see if my math is correct. 75 is over double the amount of 35. That means its a bit more than twice the travel to "qualify" for the same frequent flyer perks. Enough to make this frequent flyer and 10 year Elite member go to FiveBucks for a Tall Americano.


I live in small town America and I don't have the luxury of having a Starbucks close by to go often enough to even justify any membership. But sometimes decisions are handed down from corporate management and the marketing of that decision is left to the marketer to inform the general public. The marketing team has to somehow create a way to tell the public that this is a good decision so they don't lose customers to the competition. The problem is that corporate management (for the most part) is stuck in the old way of thinking how business is done. You used to be able to sugar coat these types of decisions and not hear much feedback. In today's digital and connected world, corporations need to be transparent because people are smart enough to see right through the marketing speak.

I don't know if Matthew G was part of the decision process or not, but I'm sure the marketing team was directed to make this sound wonderful despite taking something away. It happens at a lot of companies and a scenario can go something like this:

Corp. Manager: "We are going to sell a brand new widget. Come up with a way to make a splash about it."

Marketer: "How is it different from our competition?"

Corp. Manager: "It's the same as our competition. It's just new to us."

How do you market against your competition in a situation like that? Yes, there are ways, but more and more companies are copying the competition because something is "hot" right now, and it gets to be a marketing director's nightmare coming up with the jargon to tell people it's different because it has OUR name on it.

I got a little sidetracked, but my point is that companies need to understand that bean counters should be there to count beans, and taking away something customers come to expect WILL result in the bean counters having less beans to count.

Heather Stone

Hi Steve,
Thanks for sharing this post with the BizSugar community. Certainly companies like Starbucks need to sometimes make business decisions to minimize costs and maximize profits, but customers can spot value and see through smoke screens. Long term these decisions may still have an effect, especially if eventually more palatable alternatives present themselves.

Steve Miller

Many great comments about the Starbucks story. Thanks to all for participating in this discussion. It also struck me yesterday that the NFL story of using replacement referees for the first three weeks of the season showed a similar attitude towards customers. Considering the fact the NFL and its players garner billions of dollars annually, the argument of giving a few dozen referees a raise from $160,000/yr to $186,000/yr, plus some other similar low cost demands seems petty. More important it shows the NFL has low opinion of its true customers.


All I have to say is....if you don't like it, stop going there. If enough people stop going, they may change their ways :) Starbucks is too expensive anyway, but they do make amazing coffee!

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