Sunday, May 10, 2009

Association Starbucks

Starbucks has long touted that it is as much about community as it is about coffee. But its rapid expansion cannibalized its essential essence and commoditized its brand value and its offerings. Faced with declining revenues, a tough economy, and pricing challenges from high-end coffee-come-lately challengers like McDonalds and Dunkin' Donuts, Starbucks is fighting back with revamped product pricing and offerings.

And they're taking their campaign to the public with aggressive ad campaigns, including two messages with significant meaning for the nonprofit and association communities.

"It's not just what you're buying. It's what you're buying into." This message echoes one of the core findings from the Decision to Join study from ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership: people join associations as much for the greater good and a higher purpose as they do for any product or service that might meet their own self-interest.

And another message I can't help think is meant as a reminder to the company's executives and all its team members as much as it is for the general public: "Starbucks or nothing. Because compromise leaves a really bad aftertaste."

As Jim Collins and Jerry Porras noted so convincingly in Built to Last, identifying your core values is one thing. Living up to them and aligning strategy, tactics, and results are quite another. Doing the latter requires a much higher percentage of the leadership's time and attention than is generally offered.

In these difficult times when too many associations are further commoditizing their own efforts and subsequently marginalizing the true purpose many turn to the organization for, association leaders would be wise to heed the two messages from a corporate community that appears to have seen the light. It's time to return to the core and to reignite and reengage the community.

1 comment:

Joan Eisenstodt said...

Perfect! And that's the rub -- that there is NOT consistency in what associations (or companies) say and do. An example that keeps making me frustrated is ASAE's verbal commitment to "green" after the SR Summit. I receive laminated postcards that cannot be recycled; single-sided letters in BIG envelopes which could have been sent by email. They are not the only ones. Why can't we get this right?