Starbucks experimenting with their brand

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starbucksHere’s a strange one.  Starbucks have recently taken one of their outlets in Seattle and debranded it so that it looks like more of an independent coffee shop. Why would they be doing this?  Well, once you’ve built up a brand you will have built up an expectation of the value of that brands products. By debranding Starbucks hope to  appear less expensive and perhaps entice a few more people through their doors. Branding is supposed to present a customer with an immediate representation of cost, value and trust in the products or services being sold. Starbucks are willing to throw that away in some cases in an effort to ply new custom. For a huge brand like this to even be trying something like this must mean that they’ve noticed a serious slump in sales recently.

Normally I would see this as a risky strategy but Starbucks are big enough to take chances. Because of the way they open stores in clusters throughout towns and cities they could debrand a couple of outlets in each and still maintain their branded presence in other outlets.  It’s understandable that they don’t want to be tied to an expensive product image during a recession so they’re experimenting in shaking it off here and there.

Starbucks can attempt this because they’re big enough.  If you’re selling exclusively online you can also have a bit more flexibility than if you are only trading in bricks and mortar outlets.  If your customers are looking for a cheap product you can tailor your sites design to project an image of value or cheapness. You can adapt quicker to what your customers are looking for.  If it changes then so can you.  How you appear to a potential customer online will be decided in a fraction of a second based on the first impressions of the design and the ease in finding the products or services desired. That’s where the power of a brand comes in. It means the user / potential buyer comes to the site with instant associations of price and value. This can also turn a user away. If  a searcher is looking for some pots and pans online but doesn’t want to spend a lot then a John Lewis listing will have a higher likelihood of being skipped over. John Lewis’ products are quality but they come with a quality price tag.

Which brings me to an SEO tip I’d like to share. If you have a top ten listing for a competitive search term and you are competitive on price then include the price in your meta description. When users are scanning results a price could give them the extra incentive to click through to your site and make a purchase.

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