When in a competition with yourself, the only logical outcome is for both sides of “you” to lose.
This may be the case for Starbucks VIA.
Truth be told I like the product (I think it tastes great) and I think the concept is a great idea. But building upon a great product and great idea is a launch plan that seems logical, but has some major flaws intrinsically built in. Currently Starbucks is blind taste testing VIA against their own brew to prove to their well-educated (and discerning) customers that the new product at least meets, if not exceeds, a standard of excellence.
The critical point, in my opinion, to think about is success criteria of VIA 2 years down the road. How will we judge whether or not it was a success? Will it be because it tasted as good as Starbucks? Or will it be becaue it allowed Starbucks to enter new usage occasions and day parts that it could not have reached before? I vote for the latter and that is why I think it is a great product – it serves an unmet need of those without access to great coffee.
I know Starbucks has very smart people working for it, but strategy is getting in the way of a great idea on this one. They are giving VIA the unachievable goal of beating itself by asking loyal customers to pick a winner. Can they tell the difference? Great job if they can…but then do we have to assume that the instant product isn’t “as good as Starbucks” like it claims to be? And even worse, what if they can’t tell the difference? Is that success? Or does that make the loyal customer feel like an idiot and wonder what that says about the brewed coffee he/she has been drinking everyday for 3 years? (either way its a loss).
The underlying question is who is VIA really competing against? Starbucks? Or all the other options out there for different usage occasions (instants, colas, teas, energy drinks…)?Maybe what would have been more impactful is put a VIA container next to a Taster’s Choice container and concluded, “yea, now we understand why you buy that awful coffee out of the vending machine in your office – you would have gotten something else but the other option was even worse! With VIA, now you have a choice and a product that meets your discerning taste no matter where you are.”
Compete against the alternatives and its WIN – WIN, Compete against yourself and it is often Lose – Lose
Perfect example is what I talked about in an earlier post. Windows is stuck in a battle against itself. Mac is pushing the fight to Microsoft’s front lawn on a daily basis…and we all know who is winning that battle (at least for the moment).