Branding has become evident in almost everything we do today.
Many big brands work to convey an image that seems more intimate than corporate. But do we serve our community when we support those big brands over the local alternative? This week, I draw attention to the consequences of doing that.
A poster child of this phenomenon are Starbucks Coffee houses. At first, they were the star of the Pacific Northwest. They created a cult around coffee that although it was mainstream, had very much a “club” sort of feel. As a loyal customer, you belonged.
In the beginning, Starbucks had some unique qualities too – like the music it played. It used the power of a bigger organization to develop its own label and produced CDs that had a unique feel. Born was an underground trend that created another buzz besides the coffee.
However, as the popularity increased and the Starbucks locations expanded to almost every corner, the music like everything else became more mainstream and less unique.
That seems to be where the big box concept of pleasing everyone all the time begins. Or, should we call it, catering to the lowest common denominator?
There are big box concepts now in many industries. To some degree, they allow the little independent places to exist just by being so mundane. Of course they offer similar goods and services as many small businesses at lower prices. Often, that is what convinces us to switch.
It used to be that when the local place was replaced by Starbucks, a new independent joint would spring up in its place around the corner. It was like the forces of Nature that bring the Monarch butterflies back from Mexico every summer. However, these days even the forces of Nature have changed their habits.
It doesn’t help to pine for the old coffee shop that is no longer. But we can look for the new one that has opened, and then support their efforts, appreciating that it costs them more to create a niche and be different.
I know we won’t stop using corporate companies. It might make sense to buy your toilet paper at a big box store. Stopping at Timmie’s or Starbucks doesn’t make you a bad person. We just need to be aware of what happens when we forget about those little guys entirely.
In our world, we are so used to having comforts and convenience. Perhaps that is why we want the consistency that can be easy for chains and corporate culture to provide. Is that why we often slide into the comfort zone of their drive-throughs or online stores? Is that more important than having different options or local flavour?
I just want us all to remember, it takes people who want some variety in life, and who are proud to support the community for the little guys to survive. Then there will still be little corner coffee shops who play unheard-of music and independent retailers that have local art on the walls or food on the shelves.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.