In my opinion, pretty much everything about today’s ‘Introduce Yourself to a Free Tall Latte at Starbucks UK’ is wrong. Let’s start with:
Why this video could never speak to me
1) I drink coffee, but I don’t drink lattes.
I’m not here to have a go at infantilised cow-juice addicts, though.
They’ve got enough problems.
2) The music.
My ears! My ears!
Boom chink, boom chink… a chirpy piano refrain that puts you right there… in the elevator this muzak was spawned in.
And now you have to get out.
Starbucks has suddenly become the Seventh Circle of Hell <lightning flash> for you.
To be fair, it’s always been that for me.
So no change there, really.
3) The pacing.
‘I’m going to speak s-l-o-w-l-y to you, because you are hard of thinking.’
4) The timbre of the speaker’s voice.
‘Even though you’ve never heard me before, I’m going to convey this inane message to you in a way that I, as a voice artist, working closely with the agency lead who has commissioned me, intend to convey warmth and fellowship to you. In a really authentic and engaged manner, of course.’
Did I miss any buzzwords out, there?
5) The monologue.
‘Have you noticed how everything seems a little impersonal nowadays? We’ve all become usernames, reference numbers and <introducing an emphasis of incredulous befuddlement in order to connote a lack of understanding> “IP addresses”‘.
But you still remember how to fork over your money, right? Step this way! Let’s move on to:
Why this video is unlikely to speak to anyone
Starbucks announces triumphantly that it has ‘decided to do things differently’.
They’re going to write your name on your cup instead of your order.
That will make you feel special.
You may not get the coffee you ordered, but hey! It’ll have your name on the side.
And that’s why you went into the coffee shop in the first place, right?
To get a paper cup with your name on, not the puerile, milky, love-surrogate you crave as the consequence of a deep-seated psychological aberration, pressed into daily service as a buttress against the miseries of your morning.
Starbucks’ vision of how to make us all feel like individuals is apparently going to be facilitated by treating us all the same, in some ghoulish, sub-Freudian parody of what human fellow-feeling actually is.
‘Introduce Yourself’ is still ‘selling to an archetype’ by any other name, and as such remains faceless and anonymous. It’s just now there’s the added disorientation of being asked for your name by Don Draper so that by some sleight-of-hand you are encouraged to feel known and loved, and forget the fact that you are a few pounds poorer, and as crushed and abandoned as that discarded paper cup with your name on it.
Let’s not get into the issues around ‘throwing yourself away’ when you’ve finished, either.
However, in my opinion this campaign’s biggest failure is that, contrary to the ‘we’re all in this together (and don’t forget to buy a coffee tomorrow)’ conviviality it tries to engender, there is no connection here.
Let’s look at what is probably actually going to happen during the promotion this morning. There is no Starbucks in my town, so I can’t test this hypothesis, but if anyone else would like to, I will publish your videos.
I envisage lines of people queueing out of the door of Starbucks, moaning about the fact that they’re not getting their free coffee fast enough.
Furthermore, Starbucks staff will take a shovel load of abuse and, ironically bearing in mind the campaign’s theme, end up feeling thoroughly alienated. It would be interesting to know whether there is a spike in the number of Starbucks staff handing in their notice today as a consequence.
So, how could Starbucks they have improved on this?
A series of videos shot from the barista’s point of view showing customers’ reactions when they asked them their names, and whether they could buy them a coffee would at least have offered some insights into how Starbucks customers react to the chain’s attempt to be more personal.
What can healthcare communications can learn
Do not universalise need.
Do not provide solutions designed to speak to everyone, and that touch no-one.
Do not test messages on audiences. Let audiences deliver messages.
Hand over the microphone.