Starbucks and kid tunes? Oh my.

February 14, 2006

The most important thing in my morning is my coffee. I love and need coffee, especially after a night when my baby and my four-year-old have woken me up several times. When I can, I also love having my coffee at Starbucks. Sipping a tall skinny latte in a comfy chair reading the Wall Street Journal all by myself is heaven. But now the Starbucks nirvana we all know and love has been intruded upon by kiddie pop sensation Laurie Berkner. Starbucks is co-releasing Berkner’s latest CD and is selling it in its stores. These brands go together like oil and water. Sure the consumer might be the same, but brands are not. Is she going to travel the country doing live performances at Starbucks? I sure hope not.

I am quoted in today’s Wall Street Journal regarding Starbuck’s decision to partner with Berkner. As you can imagine I told the WSJ I am not in favor.

Here are some more detailed answers to what I think about the Berkner – Starbucks combo.

1) Do you think selling a kids music DVD is a smart extension of Starbucks’ brand?

Selling a kids music DVD at Starbuck is a lousy idea. Most parents go to Starbucks to get away from the kids. It is an adult sanctuary. Coffee, comfy chairs, and cool music. The last thing I or any other parent wants to listen or think about is kids’ music. I don’t care if she is the best kids’ singer ever, it is still kids’ music. Selling relaxing music is one thing, annoying kids stuff is another.

2) Do you think that it’s likely that the sorts of folks that shop at Starbucks will be interested in a kids music DVD?

Parents who have kids certainly are drinking coffee at Starbucks, but I don’t think they are in the frame of mind to buy their kid a music DVD while they are there. Starbucks had success selling music in the past when they sold the music playing in the stores. Customers hung out, liked the music and bought a CD on impulse. If they start playing Laurie’s stuff in Starbucks you might as well hire Chucky Cheese to work behind the counter, not a good move.

3) Laurie Berkner is considered one of the most successful children’s music performers. Does it make sense for her to look for new audiences in Starbucks, where mostly adults shop?

It makes no sense for Laurie to be in Starbucks. It is true that Laurie Berkner has built a phenomenal brand. Kids adore her and she doesn’t grate on parents ears like Barney. But she doesn’t belong at Starbucks, she belongs at Gymboree or Monkey Joes. (A new inflatable play chain.)

4) Is there a danger to Starbucks brand if customers feel the stores are cluttered with product?

Starbucks is a powerful brand. But Starbucks is going to annoy people by cluttering the store with stuff. They need to focus on the coffee, the essence of the brand. Otherwise they will end up like McDonald’s. McDonald’s used to be a hamburger joint. But after years of expanding the menu and junking up the place, the food quality and restaurant quality has suffered enormously. When you take your eye off the ball of what your brand stands for things can deteriorate.