Lure of the siren as social pumpkin…latte

September 6, 2011

Offering your audience an immediate conversation and a type of emotional connection has become a tangible benefit of the internet and social media. Having a conversation with your favorite pair of shoes, or a car or even a cup of coffee is possible now in marketing because of social media. I have a lot of respect for Mikio Osaki my advertising teacher at Art Center and his memorable work! “The advertising department at Art Center today distinguishes itself from other departments at the College by educating students who become society’s popculture sociologists.” I learned so much and saw some inspired student work while studying there. It makes me sad to see the dreck that is mainstream advertising now – where are my brilliant fellow alumni when they are most needed?

Advertising in practice is about presence, visibility, establishing brand – a billboard. You just can’t hug a billboard with satisfying outcomes. I’ll consult with my legal counsel to investigate if doing this might even get you arrested. By contrast, marketing is presence, visibility and brand amplified by storytelling, a chat, and trusted rapport. Marketing is connection, advertising is the hard sell.

True story: I love coffee – the brand energy that has bloomed around the “cup of coffee” industry of late is exciting for me to watch. Admit it, when you see a new established brand coffee place open, you notice. You might groan, “not in my neighbor” but you notice the empire of franchise building growing around you. There is coffee, obviously, espresso beverages both hot and cold, strong and flavored,
iced and dessert-like; there are roasted beans to consider and buy. There are juices and juice-like imitators, there are teas, there are sandwiches and pastries. The specificity to which you can engineer a coffee these days is amazing (and profitable) – whole milk, non-fat, soy milk, flavored syrups, spices, whipped cream, seasonal offerings, and more I’m  probably missing – I prefer café au lait. The empire
creeps farther with mugs, t-shirts, candy, music cds, french press coffee makers, ice cream, breath mints, hyper-active graphic interior décor, hard wood paneling, and convenient outlets to plug in your laptop for 3 hours… All the coffee loyalty programs I used to engage in have disappeared – which makes sense. Does a crack dealer offer you a free sample for every 10 purchases you make? But can you get that discounted if you bring your own mug?

Community used to be limited to geography – the corner coffeehouse, the one on Main Street, the place I grab coffee on my drive to work. Easy because it exists where it is convenient for me.  Recently I was fascinated by a fall campaign by Starbucks. Website ad for Pumpkin Spice Latte – my tastebuds are listening – and link to … Facebook. Not a list of stores near me, but an immediate opportunity to connect:
“Show the world that you’re a PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte, of course) by carving a Pumpkin Pic (sic) for your profile. It’s the perfect way to prove your pumpkin passion!” Community just happened.

Chaser: Some graphic design and branding history (according to Wikipedia) The company is named in part after Starbuck, Captain Ahab’s first mate in the novel Moby-Dick. “That’s right, a writer was involved in a logo project.” In 2006, Valerie O’Neil, a Starbucks spokeswoman, said that the logo is an image of a “twin-tailed siren.” The original brown Nordic-inspired woodcut logo was used by Il Giornarle. Il Giornarle was the espresso café Howard Schultz opened up in 1986 after failing to convince the original owners of Starbucks to focus on serving espresso beverages. By 1987, the two remaining original owners of Starbucks decided to sell the business and Howard jumped at the chance to buy Starbucks and remake it into the espresso
bar concept he had just begun at Il Giornale. Terry Heckler moved the siren of the logo into a more speed inducing and affirming green. Her implied nakedness was censored by the removal of her navel. Who can resist her? The logo has been significantly streamlined over the years. Consumer Reports called Starbucks coffee “strong, but burnt and bitter enough to make your eyes water instead of open.” Since 2011 Starbucks also gives away a “Pick of the Week” card for app downloads from the
App Store. A Starbucks app is available in the iPhone App Store. Make my music a double shot, no foam.

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