Monday, January 11, 2010

Book Review: Starbucked

I find Starbucks a fascinating business. Last year I posted a review of Its Not About The Coffee, which I didn't find very useful at all.

Not so with Starbucked. It's a far more even handed look at the Starbucks phenomenon. It both gushes about the ingenuity and bravado of its management in growing the company as it has, and also shines light directly on the areas of criticism the corporation receives.

On the positive side, the book looks at how Starbucks spread the taste for better coffee, brought it's own version of the italian cafe to America and then to the world, and had the bravado to put a starbucks across the street from a starbucks and prove that it RAISED sales of the first store.

On the other hand, it doesn't shy away from talking about the plight of coffee growers, asking whether mom and pop independant coffee shops are being crushed by mega-chain outlets, and whether their ecological and humanitarian efforts are just a thin veneer on an otherwise profit-driven machine.

Both sides of the argument hold some good lessons, so give it a read.

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There's another discussion to have about this book, which is a parallel with a part of the games industry, which I'll discuss in another post. The book talks about this argument that the Starbucks mega-chain is putting mom and pop coffee shops out of business. Then it goes on to cite evidence that there are actually MORE independant cafes now than before Starbucks inception, and goes on to make the case that while there certainly is the issue of competing with Starbucks, this is dwarfed by the growth Starbucks has brought to the market itself. In other words, Starbucks brought people to $3 latte's that were never there before, creating a market that didn't exist.

Doesn't this sound familiar?

Both World of Warcraft and the Wii come to mind as games phenomena that some argue have kept gamers from buying more product and spending more money. Others then argue that these have grown the overall market. Time will tell which is correct, but if Starbucks can grow the overall market for indie coffee shops, then its certainly feasible that WoW and the Wii will prove to have done the same for gaming.

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