Running Locals Crazy

Check out this article on a new phenomenon called “local-washing”. Similar to green-washing where companies claim to be organic or sustainable, it seems that stemming from the backbone of sustainability, large corporations are laying claim to be “local” with deceiving tactics. Boo, big man.

Here’s a strong example (and let me caveat this with my love for coffee): Starbucks has recently begun unbranding their locations. Imagine that! In Seattle, 3 locations are being completely renovated and re-opened under new names, the first of which is called “15th Avenue Coffee and Tea”.

Does anyone think this is insane?

Technically, and business-mindedly, it makes sense. Companies work very hard to become or to produce a “brand” which carries it’s own personality and ultimately an affinity with a consumer audience. Becoming recognizable signified a trusted brand whose products or services had an expected performance. Think about how you might run to the GAP for a new white t-shirt when you spill coffee on yourself at work because you know exactly what you’re getting.

NOW, it seems that large corporate brand names are actually canabalizing their own product by nature of being mass-producing sustainability outliers in the eyes of green-minded liberals (mind you, a good amount of the general public probably doesn’t care).

From one perspective, it is a glorious thing that these companies are recognizing their impact and trying to do something about it. However, faking it does not count! This is business 101 – be transparent with your customers.

The sad part is, I’m thinking to myself, there’s no way I would know if I was at an unbranded Starbucks location. I would think I found a cool new coffee shop that was off the beaten path and probably hit it up daily.

I’ve already been theoretically duped. Bummer.

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4 responses to “Running Locals Crazy

  1. I saw an article that Starbucks was doing that. The picture they showed looked nothing like a Starbucks. I think it’s kind of crappy that small, local places might not actually be that small…or local.

  2. 1) Isn’t Seattle the one place where Starbucks actually is local?

    2) Is any coffee shop truly local? Are the mom & pop places in NYC growing their beans on the roof?

  3. You make a good point Brian. The fear is that the test run will expand nationwide, and for people seeking to avoid promoting the growth of corporate chains that chase out mom & pop locations (think Walmart), it’s not ideal. The Starbucks example is illustrative of the larger issue.

  4. This is interesting. I heard about it on the news, but I didn’t realize that it had anything to do with local-washing. My impression was that the stores were all going to have the same name (15th Avenue) and it would be clear that they were a Starbucks spin-off that featured a different atmosphere, more specialty coffees, and such. I was sort of surprised, because I figured that people who liked this sort of stuff wouldn’t be caught dead in a Starbucks-owned store.

    I really hope it turns out this way, and not a bunch of different stores that they’re trying to fool us into thinking are local.

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