Simplifiers Want Instant Coffee, Starbucks Will Provide

Starbucks is about to introduce instant coffee. Is this a way for the Seattle-based conglomerate to grow income, destroy a brand, or both? After all, would a premium coffee company ever touch the instant category? It’s like Odwalla offering its customers a Tang-like substance.
In a Huffington Post advertorial, Howard Shultz of Starbucks quotes John Quelch, the Harvard Business School professor and marketing guru:

In a tough economy, consumers are redefining value. They are consuming less, and focusing more on seeking satisfying experiences that enhance their lives. He (Quelch) calls this growing segment “The Simplifiers.” They want fewer material goods, and more quality-of-life experiences. At our core, we have the right stuff to appeal to these consumers, whether it’s the respite from the world our stores provide or now with Starbucks VIA ready brew, quality coffee on-the-go.

I asked Jerry Ketel, President of Portland’s Leopold Ketel & Partners to discuss this development.
Ketel says, “Schultz is suggesting that people will seek out instant coffee as part of the Starbucks experience. I can’t wait to hear what Al Ries has to say about this. My prediction is that he will lambast Howard for diluting his brand (pun intended) and stealing more market share from his own company.”
Ketel adds, “Why would I want instant when I can just buy fewer cappucinos that are more satisfying experiences? The logic doesn’t make sense.”

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. ahh, perhaps they read the book and are now copying the behaviour on brand awareness:
    Chapter: Nescafé and Turkey
    For a woman who hates coffee, I don’t know why I know all the stories behind it. I need to do a search of your site with my comments and the tag coffee. maybe i could start to write a book.
    It’s time for my burdock tea. Next chapter Velcro.

  2. vinny warren says:

    i think it’s a good idea. so long as it’s appreciably better than what’s out there. busy parents with kids like myself will drink it. or gulp it back rather.
    coffee snobs will do a spit-take into their low-fat soy no-whip pumpkin lattes. but they were never going to buy it anyway. so screw em!

  3. One of the worst ideas ever. Starbucks is becoming more and more ordinary. I will only go there when there are no other options.