Is Starbucks 15th Avenue Their Ted, Song?


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It’s not that it’s “doomed to fail” so much as “what would success look like?” This may be the Starbucks’ version of TED and Song. Remember how crazy, desperate United and Delta got when JetBlue started making cheap flights cool? With those nutty flight attendants’ ad libs, TV in the seats and interesting snacks.

They thought they couldn’t compete with that tonality, so they created two new sub-brands; Song even got Kate Spade do the uniforms…

But the entrepreneurial, “let’s just try it and see what happens” model didn’t make sense for big brands like United and Delta and they quickly began folding all that equipment and the people back into the base brands.

Remember when GAP tried to launch a new store brand called Fourth & Towne? Trying to mask bigness with a kind of archetypal local address? These attempts clearly did not success in building new business for these big, lunky brands.

Did they learn anything about trying become hip? Doubtful. Maybe they learned that it’s harder to do than it looks. Ask any middle-aged divorced guy with a two-seater convertible.

Will Starbucks learn anything by trying to be locally relevant from a HQ vantage point? Maybe.

Maybe it takes that kind of incubation to gain the kind of learning that can be re-applied within the core. It’s clearly a high profile initiative within the culture: Whoever has been charged with driving it has a huge incentive to succeed as a business or at least position “success” as being a learning lab for base Starbucks.

Further reading: Starbucks tests new names for stores

Kate Newlin
Kate Newlin Consulting
A senior business strategy consultant and author, Kate Newlin works with executives at crossroads in the development of their brands including:Discovery Channel Stores, Hershey's, Wyeth, Kraft, Hickory Farms, Ascendia Brands, Church & Dwight, COBY, and Natura Brasil. Kate's latest book, Passion Brands (Prometheus, 29) deconstructs how a small band of brands become consumer obsessions.


  1. Dick Lee: Kate – your comments are quite far from reality. Suggest you read this week’s Business Week for an accurate picture. But the article notwithstanding, that’s not Howard Schultz’s modus operendi, never has been and never will be. I’m far from a Starbucks apologist, but comparing their new “concept store” to Ted is entirely off base.


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