Starbucks has finally invaded Italy with designs on conquering the storied peninsula and its surrounding islands with its brand of pricey brew. Indeed the company opens up about six stores a day world wide and now operates 25,000 locations in 78 countries. Although there are still 120 countries in the world that Starbucks has not yet entered, I think that we can safely call it a truly "global" brand. Starbucks has over-saturated the U.S. market and is now closing stores, so it must find growth in other countries. But will marketers succeed in a place where the inhabitants crave espresso? Will enough Italians cozy up to the idea of drinking a five dollar latte?
Why not? At a time when many Chinese are embracing coffee over the traditional tea, anything seems possible. But Starbucks isn't just opening up regular shops just yet; rather marketers are emulating the successful Shanghai model by launching a "reserve roastery" in Milan. The place is gorgeous, and the company's CEO has stressed the notion that Starbucks has "great respect for the Italian coffee experience". Translation: it is best not to introduce too much too soon, and see how things work out in Milan before investing significant resources towards a rapid expansion.
But Italians do love their $1.50 espresso shots as Americans once loved the cheap swill brewed by donut shops and diners in the days of yore. Starbucks changed all that here in the U.S. and has seen success in dozens of other countries that also have long-standing traditions. Perhaps Italians, especially the variety-seeking Millennial cohort, are thirsting for something different. This will be interesting to watch.
Discussion: What cultural factors should Starbucks consider? What should marketers avoid doing?
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