Catching the ‘Third Wave’

“More, more, more, how do you like it, how do like it,” a big thank you to The Andrea True Connection for this lovely song that captures the current state of coffee culture.

This ‘more’ concept has been dubbed as the ‘third wave’ taking over the fantastic brand power of Starbucks and moving towards additional attention. People aren’t interested in grabbing a cup of something that can easily be made at home, they are looking for skill, individuality and knowledge.

I’ll outline the change through slightly modified dialogue that I used to come across about four years ago:

“Hi what can I get for you?”

“I don’t care, coffee, caffeine whatever just give it to me now! In fact I have a drip connected to my arm, if you could just pour that brown crap into the bag, I’ll be on my way.”

Nowadays I have observed a new form of demand:

“Hi what can I get for you?”

“Well gee I want coffee that’s ethical, artistic and that crema better be the same color as my new brown boots or I’m walking them the hell out of here.”

Can you spot the difference? I know I can but Howard Shultz doesn’t seem able to grasp this evolution nor can he keep up with it. He is, however, combating the culture shift by revamping his stores and getting new coffee machines.

Shultz is replacing automatic espresso machines with automatic espresso machines. He’s also decided to move some furniture and paint the stores a different color. Like a fat kid with their hand in the cookie jar, the company is stuck.

Consumers don’t want to begin the day throwing three dollars down the drain while they watch some pimply faced ‘barista’ push a button with their index finger. If you can do it yourself why pay for it?

Instead they are looking for a café that suits their music taste, age range and spits out a coffee that looks amazing. Ethics need to be met and customers now have the knowledge to demand higher quality that suits their taste. So coffees can now be an 8 oz description of the person drinking it, not a cup full of everyone else in line.

Starbucks cannot compete with this individuality. It’s sad that they have reached the Coca-Cola status of brand identification through speed and consistency yet both have proven to be their downfall.

If Starbucks wants to succeed more needs to be done. Bringing in a machine that closes the margin of error is a dated approach and sadly reflects what little attention Shultz is paying towards coffee culture. Taking time out for skill may help their ‘baristas’ compete with the long list of cafés that market themselves on an experienced niche.

I go to cafés that offer me more because there are coffee shops everywhere. I want a quirky theme and a latte so beautiful I feel like I got a bargain. That’s available now and I’m bypassing speed to get it.

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1 Response to “Catching the ‘Third Wave’”


  1. 1 Unsaseshike December 13, 2009 at 12:48 am

    True words, some authentic words man. You made my day.


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