Buck Hendrix has a long history with Starbucks, starting in Procurement. He currently is the Starbucks President for Europe, Middle East and Africa, and he knows his stuff. He is also extremely honest, admitting that Starbucks became complacent with its position at the top and didn’t stop to look around.
Starbucks, as a brand, was not immune to the recession and competitors spouting up offering less expensive, more commercialized products, set Starbucks stock reeling and shook investors to their core. The brand, suddenly, was vulnerable. On the brink of losing relevance, Buck showed how Starbucks restored its image, its brand relevance and renewed its commitment to its customers and suppliers through several video presentations.
He also verbally described how once management had identified the vulnerability of the brand, management was given three months to chart its course to success and nine months to implement. Many things came out of that, one of which was a new product called VIA. Other elements included making beverages and stores more relevant to the community. One example is the Flat White – a beverage inspired by the residents of Soho, brought to life by Baristas. Launching the Flat White gave the Baristas a chance to showcase their skill with steaming milk, something you cannot find with a commercialized beverage.
Product Development suddenly became local… the frappe was launched in Greece, and Spain and Brazil all have local beverages making Starbucks relevant. Stores became local also, incorporating architecture and décor of the local city. New stores in Lebanon, Hungary and Paris all incorporated the surrounding historical treasures of the city and talent of local artists.
Starbucks is, to me, a great brand. It found itself tottering and found a way to stabilize and reconnect with its core base, the customer. It is a testament to the leadership and management that they could inspire their teams to renew life and energy into a global and highly relevant brand.