Imagine you owned a coffee-shop with a fantastic old wood-panelled ceiling which is by far the most noteworthy feature of your shop. Everything else is pretty generic but this is truly magnificent. If it was your shop I reckon you would know about the stories behind the ceiling – who made it, for who and the rich history of your coffee-shop.You’d show pride as you tell the stories and engage your customers as they stare up and marvel at its intricacies.

Yesterday in Starbucks on Vigo Street in London I walked in and couldn’t believe what I saw above my head. I asked the barista about it with wide-eyed wonder – the response a sullen, “I don’t know about that.”

What Starbucks failed to do yesterday was create local pride and a sense of ownership in their team. This makes the experience feel much more like McDonalds – all standards and no personality – than a truly great local coffee shop which I think is what they are trying to aspire to as a brand. A quick Google search shows that this ceiling has been the subject of a few consumer conversations – see a much better picture on Flickr.

In most cases brands are planned and developed centrally but they are always experienced locally. Bridging that gap is the challenge and that’s less to do with standards (which are no doubt important) and more to do with the passion of the people delivering. Celebrating the distinctive and local is a great way to engage around authentic experiences rather than what is in the brand manual.

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Mail me: justin@basini.com
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