5 Lessons From Starbucks

See this picture? It’s the message I found printed on the outside of the bag containing the thick slice of banana bread that I bought last week at Starbucks.

Very impressive.  In writing this note, Starbucks did a lot of things right – and they’re all things which deliberately serve to put a human face on a monstrously large company:

* The note was “hand-written.” Not really hand-written, but in a font that looks like handwriting. People write hand-written notes; companies don’t (usually).

* The sentences were short (some were not even complete sentences). Take a look at the e-mails you send and receive, especially from people you know well. That’s how real people write to each other.

* The note didn’t claim victory. We marketers love to exaggerate the truth; one move in the right direction and we’re busy unfurling the Mission Accomplished banners. But it never rings true among readers. In this case, Starbucks simply said, “It’s a start.”

* The note was signed. Yes, “Your Friends” is somewhat contrived, and they’d be better off if they could get a real person’s name into the signature. But at least it doesn’t just end abruptly. It’s a note, not a notice.

* There was no sales message. There’s no “20% off your next order if you bring back this bag,” or whatever. It’s simply an attempt to connect with customers. I humbly bow to whomever it was in the Starbucks marketing department who decided to forgo today’s short term sale in favor of tomorrow’s (much more valuable) long term relationship.

Two additional thoughts:

1. Notice that the degree of truth in the Starbucks’ message – “simpler recipes … less artificial ingredients … better tasting food” – doesn’t really matter. I hope it’s true, but as a consumer, I can’t tell the difference anyway. The value to them in getting me to come back is in the way the message is written.

2. There’s nothing they’re doing that you can’t do better. It’s very hard for a large company to write a human-sounding message; there are just too many people involved. You and I, on the other hand, don’t have a legal or marketing or PR department. We can even hand-write our hand-written notes with real hands.

So take a close look at your written materials. If a company with 17,000 locations and 85,000 employees sounds more authentic than you do, you’ve got some rewriting to do.

 

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