Mixed Messages

Let me say up front that I LOVE Starbucks.   They have mastered not only the perfect glass of iced tea but the consistent delivery of same.  In foreign lands or my own town, I’m always happy to see the familiar green letters.

At airports I determine which security check point to use based on the location of a Starbucks on the other side.  That was the case at SeaTac airport last week.  There I visited the recently redecorated Starbucks near the “A” gates enroute to South Satellite – a no-Starbucks zone.

Have you noticed your Starbucks getting a facelift in the past year?  There’s a lot more use of wood and less of the wall mural type graphics.  Same is now true of the airport location.

Above the condiment counter was a message reflecting the Starbucks mission of sustainability.   One line encouraged the purchase and use of their reusable cups and mugs.   Now anyone who knows me is aware that I have enough of the Starbucks travel cups to coordinate with my wardrobe and rarely am I without one so obviously the suggestion would not offend me.

However, the rest of the sentence says to think about how many trees we can saveDid I mention it was CARVED IN WOOD?  if you are going to talk about saving trees, let’s not mix the message by carving it in a tree!

I was so taken aback by the contradiction that I went over and touched an exposed edge of the board to see if in fact it was wood or some wood lookalike.   It had the same layers you would see in plywood and nothing indicated the materials used were from reclaimed wood.

Then it got me thinking about all the facelifts given to all the Starbucks locations and how much wood was used not to construct but merely to decorate.   Isn’t that a mixed message for a company that tauts sustainability and wise use of natural resources?  I keep thinking that they are pretty savvy folks at Starbucks so all this wood must be recycled in some way but I really don’t know.

It never crossed my mind until I read the copy on the WOOD wall.  Is this really something Starbucks wants me thinking about rather than just how great my iced tea tastes?

What about YOUR business?   Are there mixed messages you send to your customers?   Do you taut customer service and yet not return calls promptly?   Do you sell the latest technology but your sales team are still hand writing orders?

These mixed messages dilute the power of your brand.  They shift the focus off your products onto the contradiction.   You strive for consistency in delivery of your goods and services,  it’s important to have the same consistency of message as well.

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3 Responses to “Mixed Messages”

  1. Lia Says:

    Airport, hotel and university Starbucks’s are not corporate. They are licensed stores of the same name. I’m wondering if this has something to do with the mixed message of accountability. As a Starbucks barista, I must say I’ve never seen this anywhere before — but it is great to be aware of!

  2. Lia Says:

    By accountability I meant sustainability….. oops

  3. Melody Says:

    Hi there! I like the thoughtfulness of this blog post! I am sure that Starbucks does do a lot with fallen wood, that may look like newly sourced wood. It’s really hard to know whether this wood featured in your photo is re-purposed or newly sourced. For example, I recall hearing that Starbucks used wood from a gym floor that had to be taken out of a high school to produce the table tops at the Issaquah Meadows store. Interestingly, the Pier 55 Starbucks in Seattle uses wood reclaimed from Seattle piers!

    Either way, I think Starbucks should expressly state so on the carvings. It certainly LOOKS like it is a decorative piece, and so your point is very well made! It definitely does look like a mixed message. By the way, the Queen Anne (top of the hill on Boston St. & QA) has a very similar sign. I’d be curious to know if that one came from reclaimed wood or not.

    Thanks for the important blog post!

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