In my book, Brand Rituals™: How Successful Brands Bond with Customers for Life, I talk about why it’s important for brands to build a committed bond with their best customers. I also talk about brands that have become a ritual for me. Starbucks is one.

In the case of Starbucks, it’s the high level of personal involvement possible for the customer that drives the ritual aspects. How do they enable me to build a ritual? They create a full-featured setting that engages my senses in a variety of ways.

  • The sight of many different kinds of coffee, each labeled and augmented with information (strength, characteristics, country of origin) to make it clear that I am being empowered to choose among a wide spectrum of desirable offerings.
  • The sounds of espresso shots and coffee grinders and people talking about coffee.
  • The aromas from coffees being ground and brewed and served.
  • The interaction with someone who’s knowledgeable about coffee, an enthusiastic barista preparing my coffee my way, not a bored “waitron” pouring an indifferent brew.
  • The aura of community that tells me I’m standing among other people who also enjoy having a variety of attractive choices for the kind of coffee they desire.
  • Tables, chairs, fireplaces, wall hangings, Wi-Fi, point-of-purchase impulse offerings—all of them chosen and arranged to help me create an experience that satisfies me, that rewards me for my higher level of involvement, that makes me look forward to coming back and repeating the experience. Soon.
  • And don’t forget the role of continuing innovation: adding new flavors, introducing new point-of-purchase sale items, and coming up with new supporting elements for the experience all are ways Starbucks works to create a higher level of mindfulness.

Starbucks then allows me to order my very own version of brew. This gives me my own personal, specific, customizable experience of coffee. This is the way I like it. It’s unique and engaging for me. They continue to deepen this bond with their loyalty program. It’s not just about repeat behavior, it is about making the entire experience easy and seamless.

Because of the amount of personal control and meaning I can incorporate—even within the context of an enterprise that has to adhere to defined cleanliness standards, hire and train the staff, make payroll, pay the rent, and all the other requirements of day-to-day business operations—Starbucks has created the conditions that enable me to build a ritual with it.

Is your brand part of your customers’ ritual?

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