Starbucks Doesn't Sell Coffee

Jacob Laskowski  |   August 09, 2018

Starbucks doesn’t sell coffee.


Sure, they might fill dirty bean water into this cup for millions of consumers across the globe. But it’s the cup they’re actually selling. Yes, a cup that only costs nine cents to produce.


“That’s what brands play on,” as Stanley Hainsworth puts it. He’s the former creative director at Starbucks. “It’s part of our nature to want to be accepted. Yet, at the same time, we have this desire to feel like we’re different from everyone else — which is the complete opposite of that yearning for acceptance but is nonetheless relevant.”


The cup accomplishes this feat: holding the cup makes you different from the guy down the hall who’s carrying a cheap 7-Eleven cup of joe. ‘I’m different (read: better) than that old chump.’


This strategy is particularly intriguing — when brands create things that make you feel like you’re different from everyone else.


Consider this: without the green mermaid icon printed on its side, would the cup be as valuable? It most certainly wouldn’t. And that’s because this now universally iconic cup tells a story—not just about Starbucks, but about the person holding it.


That’s the power of iconic branding.


Authentic, intentional branding involves an examination of every single way the brand, the product, and the experience is viewed.


Everything that you do, everything you release, everything you say — everything is the cumulative expression of your brand.


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