Saturday, March 22, 2008

Don't Sellout, Sell In

If you Google the words 'coffee' or 'starbucks', I'm pretty sure that you'll see this:

And it's true. They are the leading retailer of specialty coffee in the world. In fact, just a few days ago, on my way to LAX Intl. Airport, I actually saw one Starbuck's coffee shop across the street from another Starbuck's coffee shop less than fifty yards away.

Now, I enjoy my 'vente chai tea latte with a double-shot of espresso' as much as the next guy. I'm not a crazed fanatic like some, but I can appreciate it. So when Naomi and I got to Italy, it was western instinct to look for the nearest Starbuck's as we passed through airports, train stations, and streets in search of our caffeine fix. But instead of Starbuck's, we discovered something more interesting.

Because It Matters

In all the places we visited in Italy we came across not one Starbuck's. At all. I'm not saying that they don't exist there, but even while making a conscious effort to keep my eyes peeled for one, I never found one. Coming from the US where you can find one on any street corner, it was actually refreshing. What we did find were these small, personable coffee bars with standing room only that served authentic blends of Italian caffe and fresh Italian bread and pastries. And these we did find everywhere.

In Italy, just like their wine and mostly everything else from the country, they take pride in their caffe (coffee). For obvious reasons, they hold that close to their hearts even through the public both locally and for tourists, but especially in tourist populated areas. This tells me that as globally proven and widespread as the yummy Starbuck's is, the people of Italy still hold true to their ways because to them, it matters.

Quantity or Quality?
My learned lesson and point is this: Once you start mass-selling something that isn't you, whether it's culturally or personally, you'll lose what little you'll have left. If you're looking to hit "the big-time", worldwide expansion, or to be the leading 'anything' in the world, chances are you're going to lose some of your authenticity along the way (over 35 blends). If you're smart, you'll keep it personable and stay true without diluting what makes you and your culture unique so when others experience what you have to offer in your own motherland, it will not just be more impactful, but more memorable.

(Food for Thought: Guam has over 7 McDonald's locations and only 1 Chode Store)

photo by Kel Muna 2008