September 29, 2014#

Starbucks Wants Human Connections

Starbucks new global ad campaign (just one example of a fully integrated media campaign shown here) is designed to remind consumers how it’s the place—and always has been—to make human connections.

The company’s stated goal for this campaign is to increase “dwell time” at its stores, but one suspects that there may also be another, equally important motivation.

Starbucks was created not simply as a place to get a great cup of coffee, but as a place, beyond home and work, to connect with others: what the company terms the “third place”.

This notion of a third place is as important to their values as anything.

But it appears this core value is being redefined by its very own customers, and not in a good way. Recently, Starbucks has morphed into the “screening” place. Anyone who has visited a Starbucks recently, particularly in urban locations, will have noticed that customers seem to be happy being alone together, each staring into their personal digital devise, be it an phone, tablet, or computer. With the exception of the sound of the coffee machine grinding away, it’s become a remarkably quiet setting, devoid of much real-world human connection.

Perhaps I overstate the reality of the situation, but I suspect that Starbucks is seeing a trend—which is also pervasive throughout our society—and would like it to be otherwise.

But can they truly affect a change in customers’ behavior? Maybe. But they’ll need to do more than just advertise it off and on-line.

According to BJ Fogg at the Stanford Persuasion Tech Lab, three core elements of persuasion have to exist to effect behavior change.  You have to be motivated, the change has to be made simple, and there has to be triggers to nudge you/remind you to effect the behavior change.

Right now, Starbucks is focused on influencing customers’ motivation via their “Connections” campaign. And doing a nice job of it. To effect behavior change, though, they’ll not only need to commit to this campaign for a long-time, but they’ll also need to provide real-world rewarding triggers that make it easy and enjoyable to experience Starbucks with their electronic devises turned off.