Starbucks, the ‘love it or hate it’ coffee shop is teaming up with Apple to offer free music tracks each week – a pairing that has already been running successfully in the States. The question is, will it work over here too?
The idea is that every customer who comes into Starbucks, every Monday throughout this autumn, will be given a code which they can use to download a free iTunes track or a story from a selection of books. They are also offering fast, free Wi-Fi for customers to encourage them to spend more time in their outlets. The idea is that this will attract people to stay longer as they download tracks and play on the Internet, and so of course consume more Starbucks produce.
Free Wi-Fi is becoming so common now in outlets across the country that it feels like it’s a given. Starbucks already used to offer free Wi-Fi of course but only if you had a Starbucks card.
Despite the feeling that we have a God-given right to free Wi-Fi wherever we go, this move will definitely give them the edge over Costa, their arch rivals. Better coffee they may have but more and more business is done on the road and, indeed, in coffee shops, making Wi-Fi essential.
But how does the free music offer fit with this? That’s a consumer market and unless you have a Smartphone most consumers aren’t walking around demanding free Internet wherever they go.
In the early stages of development for Starbucks, Howard Schultz, CEO of the chain, identified their target market as “affluent, well-educated, white-collar patrons between the ages of 25 and 44”. Over time, market research teams have recognized the new target market as “younger, less well-educated, and in a lower income bracket than their more established customers”.
The Apple brand appeals to both audiences so; in this case we have the free music for the lower income bracket audience and the free Wi-Fi for the more business-oriented audience. In other words we have two offers going on here that are targeted at two different audiences but which are also complementary in how they work, recognising perhaps the fact that our lives are not easily separated into business and personal anymore.
Meanwhile, what this brand pairing shows is that the decision on which coffee shop to go to is decided less and less by how good the actual coffee is. It’s about the experience and what you can do while you’re there – whether that’s reading the paper, downloading email or simply sitting and people watching. In that respect, Starbucks has shown that it truly understands how we want to enjoy our coffee, and that the coffee itself is a secondary factor.