Starbucks is making a move to “de-brand” themselves, obviously sensing the heat they’ve generated in an increasingly anti-corporate society that is simultaneously beginning to realize its mistaken faith in unlimited growth (read: suburban lifestyle). Sorry, make that unlimited growth on imaginary bases.
I don’t necessarily have a problem with Starbucks any more than I have with any other large corporation. Actually they’re known to treat their employees well, and can be considered the prime builder of generation-Y’s coffee culture (which has offered some positive effects). They have since become something a bit different: bad coffee (though I don’t care for coffee snobbery) and anti-trust grumblings are nothing to be surprised about. Watered down quality and insistence on expansion are the standard marks of growth. And then more growth. And then more growth.
Most of the public disapproval against Starbucks’ “experiment” is that, as one protest sign I found stated, “you can’t fake local”. What I see in this slick move is no different than the greenwashing in marketing nor any other attempt to capitalize on trends in popular culture.
Despite the claimed attempt to “give the community what they want” with initiatives like donation of baked goods to shelters, inclusion of beer and wine on the menu, and the featuring of poetry readings and live music, 15th Ave. Coffee and Tea will still fall into the watered down version of what a corporate directors think the community wants. I suppose thats ok for some, however, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the experiment succeed and further spread to more cities and markets. Markets, after all, reflect the desires of the people (though not an entirely objective spirit). The people, often enough, in pursuit of the ideal will settle for something short, something simply labeled local. Starbucks, being the stealthy businessmen that they are, know this, and are willing to give the people what they want.