I know so many reasons that American people hate Starbucks: its price is too high; it’s damaging small coffee business in local areas; the sizes of coffee are so confusing to some…etc. But still, it’s the coffee icon that people either love or love to hate. However, things seem going well and everyone endorses its product and its brand. By the end of 2013, there are already 900 Starbucks in China.
The truth is, Starbucks has always been the leading brand among all those other coffee shops. It’s more than a place that serves you coffee or WiFi (it’s from the Starbucks that Chinese coffee shops or restaurants begin to provide free WiFi on site). Starbucks has become a lifestyle, a way to satisfy people’s needs to show their social class and taste. All these factors contribute to the result that Starbucks has the most loyalty fans base in China.
Until last year, Chinese government starts to criticize Starbucks for “overpricing in China”.
News about Starbucks discriminating Chinese consumers is shown in different major channels both on TV and online. A tall Late (354ml) is sold 4.42 US Dollars to Chinese customers, while it’s only 3 dollars in the U.S. They also managed to interview some random people on the street, just trying to prove that Starbucks is over priced in China.
But what happens next surprises those patriotic people who are trying to criticize Starbucks and “protect our own culture”. Thousands of Starbucks fans expressed their support to Starbucks, and different voices about this “Starbucks incident” came out more and more often. Some people say that the reason they love Starbucks is because of its overpricing. By this way, they can be distinguished from those poor people. Some other people are skeptical about the reason that major media are criticizing Starbucks at this point of time. They think it’s a method that Chinese government trying to manipulate public attention away from bad news about food safety and quality.
Actually this isn’t the first time that Chinese Starbucks fans stand out to defend their beloved brand. Back to few years ago, Starbucks planned to open a branch inside the Imperial Palace. Many patriots argued that this is a cultural invasion from the U.S. and appealed to make Starbucks out of the Palace. But Starbucks’ fans talked back and said this concern is because of self-abasement and self-contemp. The power of fans also plays an important role in this incident.
But does Starbucks really care about Chinese consumers like they claimed to? The director of Asian markets said the critique from Chinese government is ridiculous and he argued that it was very normal for different countries have different pricing strategies. More importantly, he said it is mainly because Chinese consumers stayed so long in store for free WiFi so they have to charge a little bit higher.
No matter what the situation is, the fact is loyal fans have incredible power to save brands and corporates from “crisis” like this. It is very important for brands to develop a good relationship with their fans in order to have loyal base.