starbucks culture

i work in marketing (marketing communications to be exact) so am usually interested in marketing strategies from various corporations. but even still, every-day things can slip by me simply because i’m so immersed as a consumer. until, at least from my visit to starbucks yesterday, something out of the ordinary stops and makes me think.

because i was arriving later than usual to the office, i decided to stop by at a starbucks i rarely go to anymore since the usual location i now hit (the best starbucks service ever) would be pretty busy with the morning rush.

in i go and order my usual, “one tall pike, please. and a butter croissant to go.”

the guy behind the counter, who looked extremely out of place (because, lets face it, most people working at starbucks in my area are young, hip and if they’re not a visible minority, they will at least have at artsy-look to them – tattoos, piercings, half shaven head/spikes/brightly dyed hair) replies back to me with a confirmation on my order.

he said two things:

“do you want the croissant room temperature?”


“that’s a medium coffee, right?”

to both of these questions, i did reply with a ‘yes’. here’s the thing, though… the first question stumped me. the usual lingo from any starbucks i have ever visited (and i’ve visited my fair share) would be, “would you like your croissant warmed/heated?” so ‘room temperature’… what the hell? even his co-worker stopped, turned around and laughed when she heard that. i know technically he is not wrong but there’s a reason why i never heard it phrased this way… starbucks creates a culture where they actually teach a certain lingo for a very specific reason. it’s to assimilate their clientele into the starbucks world (much like apple does with their products and apps). there is a branding strategy involved which creates this familiar environment – people LIKE the lingo. they jokes and make fun of it but in the end, i’ve heard many starbucks clients speak the lingo with a tiny bit of joyous ‘lilt’ in their voice.

same with the 2nd question – medium coffee? he must have mistaken his current job with his previous position at tim hortons. and he was wrong this time. no technicality used as an excuse at all. i ended up getting a grande (and charged for it). technically, i was right, however, when i agreed with him. starbucks has a ‘short’ for small, ‘tall’ for medium and ‘grande’ is, well, it means large when translated.

and coffee? no… i said ‘pike’ but if he wanted to use the word ‘coffee’ he really needed to stress ‘medium roast’ because that is the category of said coffee.

some of you might be shaking your head at me but if i were a starbucks executive, i would have made a call to the head office about my experience to investigate on this particular location and question if a re-training is necessary.

the clientele of starbucks wants to be immersed in a starbucks world – they are most likely not at all consciously aware of this need that drives them back day after day, but it is the true underlining of starbucks marketing. and therefore, their success.


2 thoughts on “starbucks culture

  1. Do you not have the Venti size there? Here we don’t have the short, for us our options are only tall=small, grande=medium (but arguably a big medium) and Venti=large (again, more extra-large-ish in size).

    Regardless, he should know better. Here, they’ll never even say the word medium. I tried ordering that way and they always say, “So, a grande then.” 😊

    • actually, you should try asking your local starbucks about the ‘short’ cup. it is 8 oz. they don’t advertise it but it should be available in their retail, stand alone stores. but if it’s just a section within a chapters or grocery store (or lobby of somewhere), you may be out of luck. if you like cappuccino, it supposedly tastes better as a short because it’s more concentrated (but cheaper). check out this article: and if you go to starbuck’s nutrition guide, they have the 8oz cup to choose from the pull down menus. it’s their ‘little’ secret! 🙂

      We do have the venti as well.

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