Thursday, March 20, 2008

Starbucks launches community-suggestion site

The name is different, but Starbucks has unveiled a new suggestion site that looks an awful lot like Dell's Ideastorm community. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

The site, MyStarbucksIdea, proposes to take suggestions from customers on what changes they would like to see Starbucks make. The community then votes on their favorites, and comments on them.

But John Moore points to a quote from Chris Bruzzo, Starbucks chief technology officer, made when the website was introduced on Weds: “I am not aware of another organization that is investing in making this kind of a commitment to integrate customers and their ideas and their insights into the products and experiences that they develop.”

I have serious doubts that no one at Starbucks has heard of Ideastorm, and will assume this is just corporate posturing. But the bigger point here is, as Moore alludes to, is Starbucks' culture ready to act on the feedback they will receive from MyStarbucksIdea? Because you better believe that feedback is coming.

Interestingly, this ties into a discussion several of us were having at the Conversation Starters event during SXSW. We were discussing whether or not large companies are more likely to stumble on their first social media attempts. Dell's initial slip-ups in the blogosphere helped get their culture to a point where they were willing to embrace blogging and a community-empowerment idea like Ideastorm.

Is Starbucks at that point now? We'll soon find out. But besides that, I think this is a great move by the company and I applaud Starbucks for taking such a bold step.

Which raises an even bigger question, is this the start of a trend? What if MyStarbucksIdea ends up being the runaway success that it could become? How many more Fortune 500 companies might adopt a similar customer-empowerment site in the next year?

Exciting times my friends, exciting times...

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Anonymous said...

Mack - Wouldn't surprise me to see more such sites pop up from "the brands." BTW what is beginning to erk me are companies (and social media networking sites) that seem to open doors for customer conversations but never join in. It's as though are sending platitudes, expecting customers to give them feedback and ideas but never even say "thanks."

Seth Brady said...


I'm in the same camp in hopes that this becomes a success and becomes more of the norm for bigger companies.

But the value of this entire exercise will be proved by several facts:

1) How Starbucks chooses to repond to the actual feedback. People are asking for a "Buy 9 Drinks Get 1 Free" offering, which they've rejected in the past. When the overwhelming majority clamors for this, and it goes against your brand identity, do you change your brand to meet the needs of your community?

2) How engaged Starbucks' Idea Partners are with community feedback. I'm not seeing a lot of "Official Starbucks Response" on the ideas, and assume this is because they're silently listening and don't want to lead the witness or try influencing votes. But it will be telling in the coming weeks how responsive this team becomes.

3) How Starbucks uses this site to report on progress. It's one thing to have people vote on ideas, but it's something altogether different when you put yourself out there to report regularly back to your community with updates on where you're at.

Here's hoping it's a big success!

Mack Collier said...

Toby and Seth, it seems that the key point here is, how will Starbucks respond to the feedback? And given the volume of feedback that they are already getting, they will need to implement some changes fairly quickly, or the community will begin to feel as though Starbucks isn't willing to listen.

IOW you're asking a very big company to use social media for the first time to move quickly. Yikes, a tall order, but hopefully they can pull it off, or if not, at least learn from the episode.

Seth Brady said...


The other interesting fact is the number of people that have already signed up and starting contributing ideas.

It's not like Starbucks had to provide any incentives to get people to sign up (No "Register today and get a coupon for a free cappuccino" giveaways in sight!), so it's important also to note that companies will generally never have issues with getting people to contribute their thoughts once the word is out, especially those with cult-like brand followers (imagine if Disney opened a similar site to question people's feedback about their parks and resorts? The flood of ideas would be massive!)

Then it's back to your main do you stem the tide and steer the ship through the flood of ideas you're now responsible for generating?



Anonymous said...

Starbucks needs to try something. The changing economy has Starbucks trying anything.

Anonymous said...

Mack - I don't think that asking a company big or small to use a tactic "properly" even for the first time is unrealistic. If we feel that the same 'respect' is due social media marketing as is placed on *any* marketing strategy from research to interactive the people implementing those strategies should be held to the same standards. If the organization doesn't have the in-house expertise I know know some highly respected consultants, including you, who would be happy to help guide the process.

Anonymous said...

i have only gone to starbuck once. if i have to pay all that money for a cup of capacinno. i feel that i shouldnt have to make it my self. you only give a cup of coffee and customers have to make it them self. if i wanted to make it myself i would do it a home. when i buy a cup of coffee i expect to have all the fixing in it. hot cream and foam. otherwise its not cappacino. i go down the street to a restr. that actually makes it. and is cheaper. and your prices are to high anyway. i dont think your coffee is worth that much.