Research Proposal of Starbucks

1.The Starbucks “Sing Your Own Song Event” 2. The purpose is to answers the central question: How can music contribute to conveying Starbucks’ experience to the Dutch consumer? 3.(a) What is the new concept to be tested? (b) How can music contribute to conveying Starbucks’ experience to the Dutch consumer? (c) Why do people avoid the Starbucks brand?

(d) Why do people have an unfavourable attitude towards Starbucks, so much so that they avoid the brand? (e) What and Why Starbucks brand has been know all over the world? 4. The research undertaken will be from the Constructivist epistemology with an Interpretist theoretical view. The reason underlying this is that the Constructivist epistemology views reality (of which there are multiple) as being constructed by human interaction. It is shaped by social conventions, process and culture (Crotty, 1998).

The Interpretist view leads itself well here because the goal is understand the meaning within a social context (Orlikowski and Baroudi (1991). In this case the research is to uncover the reasons behind the social phenomenon “brand avoidance” within the Starbuck context. As brands are “bundles of meaning” (Lee, 2007) and this research is within a social context which has been constructed by human process, qualitative research will be used to provide rich and insightful meanings into attitude and brand avoidance for Starbucks. The limitation 1) being that the results will have low generalisability (Hair et al, 2006). What kind of company is Starbucks?

* How did the brand develop to become a Multinational? * What is the company’s Mission and Vision? 2) What is the Starbucks experience exactly? * The Starbucks experience: a “Second Home” * The specific aspects that convey the experience 3) How do the Dutch customers perceive the current Starbucks experience? * Why do they go to Starbucks? * How do they feel about the atmosphere inside the coffee shops? * Are they familiar with the “Second Home” experience? 4) Is music important for the Starbucks experience, looking at what music already does for this brand? * Is there already a connection between the brand and music? * Are there examples of this brand and using music?

5) How do other brands put their experience concept into practice? * Examples * Cases * What media is used in the customer communication? 6) What is an optimal experience looking at the current “Experience Economy”? * What are the ingredients of an optimal experience? * The definition of a meaningful experience * The 4 realms * Co-creation 7) What form should the concept take? * How do you get the customers familiar with the new concept? * What media should be used? Why? * What is the optimal form for this concept? * What are the best “Experience Settings”?

8) What do the Starbucks customers think of the new concept? * Focus groups + Mood board * Questionnaire * Does it suit with their perceptions and experience of the brand? * What do customers think about the connection between Starbucks and music?

5. Starbucks is a multinational company who purchase and roast whole coffee beans. They sell these along with a variety of hot and cold beverages, food, teas and coffee accessories. The head office is in Seattle, USA, which is also the location of the first store. The company’s net profit for 2008 is $316.8 million; however profits have decreased by 77% in the first 2009 quarter (New York Times, 2009). Starbucks was voted one of the best retail environments by Brand Channel in 2009, with comments like “The right blend of flavours in the decor, service, product, sensory experience with a shot of neighbourhood authenticity”.

In comparison with other European countries, Starbucks is rather new on the Dutch coffee market. The Starbucks experience seems less exploited among the Dutch consumers. This thesis will demonstrate the effect of music and how music can convey the Starbucks experience in order to “engage” the customers with the brand. The research will verify the way a creative “Music Event” can contribute to reaching this goal by answering the central question: How can music contribute to conveying Starbucks’ experience to the Dutch consumer?

Starbucks originated in the United States in 1971. The company introduced a new concept that became famous all over the whole world. The experience of drinking a luxury cup of coffee was combined with a comfortable environment. The brand experience of Starbucks is described as a “Second Home” in which a “sense of belonging” is important. The relaxed in-store atmosphere, customized quality coffee, good service, high level of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and a warm flow of music in-store, are all considered important factors in creating this experience.

Music has been a specific tool to “translate” the brand experience for years and Starbucks keeps developing this part of the experience by using new technology and networks to recommend their favourite music to the consumer. Customers agree that music can be used to create a suitable atmosphere for a “Second Home” experience. However, customer research demonstrates that this experience is not fully developed in the Netherlands. The most important reasons are: store location and the fact that Starbucks is a recent entry to the Dutch market.

Case studies demonstrate that other brands use music to create an interactive customer experience in order to engage their customers. The best way to put this into practice is by using a combination of virtual and physical settings. Social Media is considered an effective medium to communicate with the consumer in an interactive way. Theory on the “Experience Economy” demonstrates that by adding a “Meaningful Experience”, a brand can distinguish itself from its competitors.

A Meaningful Experience should consist of “flow” and aspects of “the four experiential realms”. In addition the experience should be formed through co-creation, where the company and customers collaborate in the creation process. By analysing the findings at this point, sub question 7 was answered: What form should the Starbucks music event take? The music event was called “The Sing Your Own Song Event”, and it is created by customers for customers. Qualitative and quantitative research demonstrates that customers are enthusiastic about the event. In their opinion the event suits the brand.

* What is the new concept to be tested? This thesis focuses on Starbucks and music. Research will be undertaken on to what extent music can contribute to conveying Starbucks’ brand experience to the Dutch consumer. Starbucks does not seem to utilize music to its full potential to convey its experience on the Dutch market. A reason for this could be that the Dutch market is a relatively new one for Starbucks, in comparison to other operational European markets that were already penetrated. The fact that Starbucks is new in the market could result in the fact that the brand experience is underdeveloped for Dutch consumers.

It seems that a part of the Dutch customers do not “live” the brand experience (yet) to its full extent. This assumption should be examined with qualitative and quantitative customer research on the connection between the Dutch consumer and the brand experience. A new concept could better convey this brand experience and familiarise Dutch consumers with it. In this way the Dutch consumer will be further connected to the brand. This should prevent Starbucks from losing its uniqueness and “soul” (Nagel, 2011).

A unique, creative concept was invented for the Netherlands to discover if music can contribute to improving the Dutch Starbucks experience. This new concept is: “Starbucks Music Event”, a festival organized by Starbucks, in which customers can taste the beverages freshly made by Starbucks-baristas while listening to live music. A unique way of establishing contact with the Starbucks experience outside the shop, in a suitable setting. The smell and taste of coffee combined with the sense of music.

The objective of this concept is to open the eyes of the Starbucks customers in the Netherlands, in order to fully engage them to the brand, using music as a tool to ‘translate’ the Starbucks experience. This thesis will clarify if the new concept could work, if it suits the brand, if it suits the customers, what the ingredients of the experience should be according to the “Experience Economy” theory and how the concept should be carried out. *

* Why a new concept? In the Netherlands, Starbucks introduced its concept on 25 June 2007, by opening its first shops at Schiphol airport. Before this, Starbucks was only present in the headquarters of Nike in Hilversum. (Vrijdenker, 2009). After this, the company found a Dutch partner, Servex b.v., that enabled them to open shops at the main railway stations such as Utrecht Centraal (August 2009), Amsterdam Centraal (November 2009) and Leiden Centraal (January 2010).

According to AT5, the railway stations were a start for further expansion in the Dutch market. Starbucks announced that they were planning to open stores in the city centre of Amsterdam in the summer of 2008 (AT5, 2011). They opened their first coffee shop in the city centre in Liedsestraat, Amsterdam on April 21 2011. In comparison with other European countries, Starbucks is rather new in the Dutch coffee market. The Starbucks experience seems less exploited among the Dutch consumers. *

According to CEO Howard Schultz, Starbucks is aware of the fact that they should not be complacent despite their head start, even though the unique culture, the intimacy of the brand and the exclusive customer experience encourage people to return (Michelli, 2010). According to Schultz, Starbucks should stay small while growing big (Michelli, 2010). Starbucks should be sure to be faithful to its concept in order to maintain this head start on its competitors. According to CEO Howard Schultz, in its focus on fast growth Starbucks is starting to change from an exclusive brand to a mass product (Nagel, 2011).

Customers seem to find Starbucks too ordinary and too expensive (Nagel, 2011). Starbucks should stay true to its brand experience during the development of a new concept. It is obvious that there are many competitors in the coffee market; however, it is impossible for competitors to copy the unique idea and vision behind a brand (Rijkenberg, 2005). According to Jan Rijkenberg, success should not be considered the end point, but as a signal that the company is on the right track. After that, the focus should not decrease.

The “concept brand”, a brand with a clear, integrated story, should continue to surprise and maintain its creativity to keep their fans and followers alive (Rijkenberg, 2005). “Especially for young adults it is important that a brand stimulates, entertains and comes up with new innovative concepts. They want to be able to get in touch with a brand. According to them a brand should have a meaning and should show a particular way of life.

Especially the changes, new ideas of a brand and being present in surprising ways is respected and rewarded.” (Rijkenberg, 2005) A new music concept as “Starbucks Music Event” could help the consumer get in touch with Starbucks in a surprising way. This thesis will demonstrate the opportunities of music and how it can convey the Starbucks Experience in order to “engage” the customers with the brand.