The Starbucks Brandscape and Consumers

Topics: Coffee, Starbucks, Coffeehouse Pages: 42 (10427 words) Published: November 5, 2012
The Starbucks Brandscape and Consumers'
(Anticorporate) Experiences of Glocalization
CRAIG J. THOMPSON
ZEYNEP ARSEL*
Prior studies strongly suggest that the intersection of global brands and iocal cultures produces cultural heterogeneity. Little research has investigated the ways in which global brands structure these expressions of cultural heterogeneity and consumers' corresponding experiences of glocalization. To redress this gap, we develop the construct of the hegemonic brandscape. We use this theoretical lens to explicate the hegemonic influence that Starbucks exerts upon the sociocultural milieus of local coffee shops via its market-driving servicescape and a nexus of oppositional meanings (i.e., the anti-Starbucks discourse) that circulate in popular culture. This hegemonic brandscape supports two distinctive forms of local coffee shop experience through which consumers, respectively, forge aestheticized and politicized anticorporate identifications.

izing corporate capitalism (Falk 1999; Klein 1999). AntiStarbucks slogans, culture-jamming satires of the Starbucks logo, and impassioned indictments of the company's business practices occupy many comers of the Internet, providing meeting points for myriad cybercommunities. Academic researchers have also entered into this cultural

conversation about the consequences of globalization. For
proponents of tbe homogenization thesis, global brands are
Trojan horses through which transnational corporations colonize local cultures (e.g., Falk 1999; Ritzer 1993). In recent years, anthropological studies have built a strong empirical case that, contrary to the homogenization thesis, consumers

often appropriate the meanings of global brands to their own ends, creatively adding new cultural associations, dropping
incompatible ones, and transforming others to fit into local cultural and lifestyle pattems (Hannerz 1996; Miller 1998a). From this perspective, the interjection of global brands into local cultures paradoxically produces heterogeneity as

global brands take on a variety of localized meanings (Ger
and Belk 1996; Miller 1998a). More generally, these theorists contend that local cultures and the forces of globalization are thoroughly interpenetrated and coshaping; hence, the effects of globalization on everyday cultural life—via global brands, fashion, and mass media—are more accurately described as a process of "glocalization" (Robertson 1995; Wilk 1995).

While these studies offer a needed corrective to the calamitous view of global capitalism as a culture-crushing juggernaut, they present two key theoretical oversights.
First, global brands carry meanings that stand in sharp symbolic contrast to local alternatives, meanings that exist against a backdrop of societal anxieties about the power

We changed the way people live their lives,
what they do when they get up in the morning,
how they reward themselves, and where they
meet. ( ORÍN SMITH, Starbucks CEO)

T

he marketing success of Starbucks is legion. The Starbucks revolution transformed gourmet coffee from a yuppie status symbol into a mainstream consumer good, and
it essentially created the American coffee shop market. In
1990, there were approximately 200 freestanding coffee
houses in the United States; today there are over 14,000,
with Starbucks owning about 30% of the total (Daniels
2003). Starbucks's model of café cool has proven readily
exportable on a global scale, sweeping through Canada,
China, Japan, Taiwan, Britain, and much of continental Europe, with bold plans to enter coffee mecca (Holmes 2002). Starbucks conquers Rome; grande or venti. Brute?
Starbucks's market dominance coupled with its hyperaggressive expansion strategy—which leads to a significant rate of cannibalization among its own stores (Daniels 2003;
Holmes 2002)—also make this brand a lightening rod for
protest and criticism. Starbucks has become a cultural icon
for all the rapacious excesses, predatory...

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