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Revisiting the Starbucks Reserve in China

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Blog April 2, 2018 by Jean-Pierre Lacroix
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Revisiting the Starbucks Reserve in China

While in China, SLDNXT’s Managing Director Teddy Ma and I revisited the Starbucks Reserve which opened earlier this year, not far from our Shanghai offices. We wanted to visit the site to see if it was still inspiring the same fervorous success that it had when it opened.

You could argue this new concept represents a new age for Starbucks, which enjoys massive visibility globally and in China. Howard Shultz is wise to the life span of his brand defined by the industry “S” curve of rapid growth, sales plateau and slow decline by reinventing his company into a micro factory.

This massive factory, covering 30,000 square feet of immersive experiences, pays as much tribute to the history of coffee as it does to the craft of roasting and brewing. From the three-storey copper kettle to the unique design of its ceilings and fixtures, this new Reserve Roastery redefines the coffee experience and reinforces the company’s leadership role in the industry.

We have learned that most transformation projects are driven by inspiration derived from other industries, and specifically in the case of the Reserve Roastery, the micro-brewery growth segment such as Goose Island Brewery or our very own Alexander Keith’s Museum launched more than fifteen years ago. The Reserve Roastery, by its very descriptive name, harks back to distillery and micro-brewery linguistic metaphors.

The link between the three-storey copper pot placed in the center of the Starbucks immersive centre and the Alexander Keith Museum speak to the craftsmanship nature of fabrication in addition to reinforcing the space as a place where manufacturing happens. The immersive experience in both the Reserve Roastery and the Keith’s Museum reinforce a strong brand story narrated throughout the customer journey, adding rich context to the emotional appeal of the brands being promoted and providing a great context for sharing with friends. Food in both experiences play a critical role as part of the social fabric binding the story and product.

The Starbucks Reserve Roastery is a great example of borrowing visual metaphors and narrative stories found from other industries and leveraging consumers’ learned behaviours and brand associations as a platform in creating an immersive, emotionally rich brand experience. This trend follows other great brands such as the Mercedes ME centre in Beijing, with its two-storey digital and physical experience. Selling brands is quickly becoming much more exciting and immersive.

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