No, Starbucks, Don’t Try to Please Everybody

Sometimes the best target marketing is understanding who isn’t your target market. To be strategic, you have to know when to say no. Which means Starbucks ought not to be worried about the people who buy coffee in McDonald’s instead. Know when, and to whom, to say no.

Consider this quote:

I don’t know the secret to success.  But I do know that the secret to failure is trying to please everybody.

In that context, consider this news item I picked up from the Entrepreneur Business Blog. Starbucks is testing coffee for $1 and free refills. According to the news item, they’re concerned about McDonald’s opening up coffee bars.

Ok, what? I use Starbucks a lot in my teaching and seminars, as a symbol of smart marketing that sells affordable luxury, not just coffee. Starbucks, I’ve been saying for a while now, understands the importance of price positioning. Starbucks, I’ve been saying, understands that their customers want a place to meet, an affordable luxury, a reliable and consistent high quality, and that their customers don’t want coffee in McDonald’s.

So now Starbucks is worried about cheap coffee in McDonald’s? Say it isn’t so. It was bad enough that they put their brand on coffee on airplanes that can’t possibly be really good because the logistics are so difficult. Now they’re taking away one of my more useful examples.

Hence, that quote above, which is one of my favorites. And also one of the all-time-great short blog posts, on Seth Godin’s Blog. The title is The more people you reach the more likely it is that you’re reaching the wrong people, and the whole text is “who vs. how many.”  Right on.


  • Shutterstock, Photos, and Pricing is Magic says:

    […] asked him about my favorite Bill Cosby quote: the secret to failure is trying to please everybody. Is this a lack of focus, spreading out too far, trying to appeal to everybody? Apparently not, […]

  • Kendall says:

    Right on point, Tim! I'm in Seattle this week, sitting at a Tully's coffee because the wi-fi is free. Starbucks needs to look at the customers they want, and determine why they don't come back. Charging for wi-fi through T-Mobile in their stores is alienating customers when wi-fi is becoming increasingly prolific and FREE!

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