Starbucks' Holiday Latte Mistake

Starbucks Swaps Holiday Drinks

[Updated: Thankfully, Starbucks returned to their Gingerbread Latte roots. Maybe they read our blog.  Or, perhaps the sight of people spitting out their drinks got to them.  Either way, I’m glad to have my drink back, and the marketing lesson still applies.  Read on…]

I’ve written and talked a lot about Starbucks in my time, mostly because they’re a good company to study when it comes to marketing.  And, while they’ve had some missteps over the last few years, they generally seem to be on the upswing.

Until this week, that is.

Let me start by saying that I am a creature of habit.  This is a good thing for vendors that want to sell to me, because when I find something I like, I am loyal to a fault.  Starbucks is one company that benefits from my loyalty, because I buy their products more frequently than almost any other company’s.

I am the Starbucks customer who has been waiting all year for the company to offer its holiday Gingerbread Lattes.  I drink Frappuccinos when it’s hot, but come winter, I’m a grande, non-fat, easy-whip, gingerbread latte gal.

This winter, however, Starbucks pulled a bait and switch on me.  After being told in their stores that the holiday drinks would, as usual, arrive in early November, I dutifully showed up and ordered my gingerbread latte. Instead, I received a Ginger Snap latte.  Which, in case you’re wondering, is NOT the same thing.  Tastes similar, but is not quite the same.  And it has actual chunks of ginger in the bottom of the cup.

This is bad for a number of reasons.  First, loyal customers like me who ordered a gingerbread latte received a different drink.  Not knowing I was getting a different drink than I get – EVERY YEAR –  I was actually grossed out to find something chewy in the bottom of my cup. No one mentioned the change to me, so it actually took me 2 visits to Starbucks to notice that they’ve changed their drink offering, and this is part of the new product, rather than just a drink gone wrong or the result of something falling into my coffee while it was being made.

My reason for mentioning it here is: if you have very happy customers who are loyal to one of your products, don’t quietly change it on them. You want to add something new? Great. By all means, expand your product line. But, when someone buys and loves something they’ve always bought from you, don’t hand them something different that gives them the urge to spit it out.

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