I’ll Take a Bold: The Starbucks Via Launch

I normally cover startup technology on this blog but occasionally I think it’s good to look at what’s happening in the wider world of marketing to see if there are lessons we can learn and apply to our little corner of the world. This week Starbucks launched Starbucks Via, a product they describe as a “breakthrough in instant coffee”.  The company says they have worked for 20 years to develop a process of making instant coffee that preserves the coffee’s taste, quality and freshness to the point where a cup of Via tastes just like a fresh brewed cup of Starbucks coffee. My first reaction when I heard about Via was “Are they nuts!?”  What happened to the “third place” coffee house experience?  Do Sanka drinkers dream of coffee made from “the highest-quality, ethically sourced 100% arabica beans?” What happens to their “premium” brand when customers see it in the grocery store next to Folger’s?   If this stuff really tastes as good as brewed Starbucks, aren’t they encouraging customers to stay at home drinking $1 cups of Via rather than visiting their nearest Starbucks for a non-fat, extra-hot Mocha Frappuchino for $4? Positioning: Us vs. Us not Us vs. Them Starbucks hasn’t gone so far as to claim that Via isn’t instant coffee (a common tactic when re-defining a category) but they are careful not to compare themselves directly to Sanka or Nescafe.  The reference point is their own brewed coffee.  Via is described in their marketing as instant coffee that “tastes as delicious as our brewed.  Almost was not an option.” This is a bold (sorry I...

Upcoming: MeshMarketing and ProductCamp

There are a couple of interesting events coming up in Toronto that I’ll be participating in. MeshMarketing The folks that organize the excellent Mesh Conference have added a new conference this year focused on online marketing called MeshMarketing happening on Oct 22nd in Toronto.  I’ve been asked to moderate a panel discussion around the topic of how Digital, Advertising, and PR agencies differ in their approach to social media.  I’ve got my own set of opinions on this topic but I’m interested in yours – give me some quick (and anonymous) feedback on your thoughts by clicking here. No seriously, I’m only asking for 200 measly characters – DO IT NOW! Also this conference will sell out so if you are planning on going, I would buy a ticket quickly. ProductCamp The second ProductCamp Toronto is happening on Sunday and I’m looking forward to it. What I love the most about ProductCamp is it’s probably the only time you get to mix with a large group of product management people.  While there seems to be a marketing event every week (particularly with a PR/advertising/social media focus), events for product folks are few and far between. There’s still space so if you’re interested you can register here.  You can follow the Twitter stream related to this event by watching #pct2. **Update** I’m getting some pretty interesting feedback about the MeshMarketing panel.  Here are some of the comments: They differ and that’s good.  The integration of all disciplines/agencies makes the most sense because all have strengths that intersect the social media space:insights, strategy, creative, relationships. PR firms “get it” more because...
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