Is there a limit to brand love?

A hilarious episode of The Simpsons presented what may be the growing sentiments of consumers towards the brand. In the episode in question, Bart Simpson, the naughty son of equally naughty Homer Simpson goes to the mall to do what the average American kid does at the mall – indulge the spirits of consumerism. As he moves from shop to shop he notices that the number of Starbucks seem to increase virtually as he watches. Bart is not a happy camper because some of his favourite “small time” shops are being edged out of business either due to the sheer financial offer they are unable to refuse or the fact that Starbucks is able to politely rely on the market forces to drive the smaller players out of business. By the time Bart Simpson leaves the mall after his brief visit, the entire mall is composed of nothing else but Starbucks! This is obviously an exaggeration but the fact that it gets portrayed in such a popular television series reflects or influences the feelings of consumers towards the brand. Less than a decade ago, virtually everybody in the west was pleased to have a Starbucks at “a nearby corner”.

Is Starbucks a victim of its own success? Has the brand gone too far? Is there a limit as to how much a brand can grow and still remain a loved brand?

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One thought on “Is there a limit to brand love?

  1. Terence Mwangi says:

    Tom,
    Very nice blog. Very nice topics too. This particular one caught my attention because ‘brand love’, as you put it, is close to a national sport in Italy; or let me say in Rome. Roman’s in particular and Italians in general have fierce brand loyalty. Last year, the University of Bologna announced that it had come up with a prototype for a Pizza dispensing machine that would work in much the same way as the ubiquitous beverage dispensing machines. The machine would only dispense Pizza Margherita. The general Italian public was less than amused for the Pizza Margherita is not only the most famous of Italian pizzas, it also has some historic significance. It was first prepared in Naples for the Queen Margherita and it had 3 simple ingredients; Basil (Green), Cheese (white), Tomato (Red) – the 3 colours of the Italian Flag. The general sentiment was that people would rather have their Margherita done at 4pm thereabouts by Mario or Carlo at the shop round the corner. Ironically however, there is Spizzico – large Italian food chain that specializes in Pizzas; especially Margherita. Everyone is happy to hear that there is ‘now a Spizzico nearby’; never mind that their Pizzas tend to be rather bland.

    I think the problem is not really ‘Brand Love’; perhaps the problem is change. Starbucks was supposed to be a small entity of the Mom-and-pop variety where people would meet, chew the fat, trade gossip and perhaps have some coffee. It was supposed to be run by an ordinary Joe whose name everyone knew. Now there is a faceless group in charge; “…and I keep having to repeat my orders and they just never get it right etc etc….” so the regular customer laments. Its almost as if the growth of a small firm inflicts personal loss on its patrons. “This is just not the Starbucks I knew” – for all we know it could very well be a bit better than the one “we knew”.

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