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How Starbucks’ Via Helps its Consumers Fight the Recession

August 10, 2011

Starbucks’ launch of Via shows great commercial courage. And commercial courage is what consumers need in the face of this recession.

The courage not to lower prices on existing services, but to innovate, to provide new solutions that offer unprecedented value.

Instant, soluble coffee has long been the unspeakable wasteland of the coffee business. Conventional wisdom would be that no premium brand should go near it.

But Howard Schultz’s vision from day one has been to bring quality coffee to the mass market. Via continues that effort.

Look at the packaging. Taste the product. Via is going to redefine and reenergize the instant coffee subcategory. It will offer time-strapped Starbucks loyalists a chance to stretch their dollars and sustain their Starbucks brand consumption frequency. It will also offer non-Starbucks users an affordable entry point into the Starbucks world; after trying Via, they may want to visit a store for the full Starbucks experience.

This launch is not dumbing down the Starbucks brand. It is making it affordable and accessible in the face of recession. It is innovative, unexpected. So long as it doesn’t distract management from continuously improving the in-store experience, it could be a winner.

John Quelch

John Quelch is a professor at Harvard Business School and is known worldwide for his research on marketing. His latest book is Greater Good.

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From → Branding, Economy

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