While we’re all holding our Starbucks mocha javas, let’s turn to this great interview with John Moore on how Starbucks made certain we would all love Starbucks, and in turn, how you can use their business wisdom to do the same for your company. John Moore has been recognized by Fast Company magazine as a “leading practitioner of the arts of customer service and marketing.” For the past decade, John has made his mark in the marketing world by creating, championing, and implementing marketing ideas and branding ideals for Whole Foods Market and Starbucks Coffee.
He shares his business advice not only in his book, and interview, but also through his powerful Brand Autopsy Marketing Practice. John also serves as a Standards Council Advisory Board Member with Word of Mouth Marketing Association. He is one of the brightest and most innovative voices in marketing today.
In this interview, he shares his insight on how businesses can estabish a powerful corporate culture with which to propel their company.
NH: Tell us about your upcoming book and what spurred you to write it?
John: I spent nearly a decade working deep inside the Starbucks marketing department and learned a tremendous amount of marketing know-how on building an endearing and enduring business. Since I´m an avid business book reader, I´ve long aspired to write a business book of my own and felt I could share some of the marketing know-how I learned from Starbucks in a compelling way. The result being TRIBAL KNOWLEDGE: Business Wisdom Brewed from the Grounds of Starbucks Corporate Culture
This TRIBAL KNOWLEDGE book actually began as a back-pocket guide for marketing managers covering everything from how to write marketing plans to how to manage a team. It slowly morphed into a book sharing all the tid-bits of insider marketing, branding, and business knowledge I learned from working inside Starbucks.
NH: What is tribal knowledge and how can marketers learn from it?
John: Tribal Knowledge is simply any unwritten, informal wisdom that is passed down from one employee to another. In other words, it´s "best practice" advice shared amongst employees on how to work smarter, not harder. Tribal Knowledge exists in every business, no matter its size. Problem is, at most companies, no one has taken the time to collect it.
The Starbucks Tribal Knowledge I share in my book is a collection of weathered truths that exist solely in the hearts and minds of longtime Starbucks employees. These weathered truths range from pithy quotes spoken by Starbucks executives to "a-ha moments" from successful and failed projects. And when added together, these tribal knowledge nuggets express the learnings and traditions of Starbucks.
I routinely get ask to share some of the so-called "business secrets" on how Starbucks managed to become so successful from selling a simple cup of coffee. Readers of TRIBAL KNOWLEDGE will learn many of the principles Starbucks followed to find prosperity from selling a commodity. My hope is that these ideals will spark ideas with readers and inspire them to make their businesses more successful.
NH: Can you talk about how companies should view customers?
John: In the book I talk about how companies should treat customers as being everyday explorers who seek to be interesting in order to get them interested. Starbucks marketers treat customers not as occasional tourists seeking superficial trinkets but as everyday explorers seeking stories. With every visit to Starbucks, customers come away with a story. It could be the story of a new beverage or a story of seeing an old friend or a story about hearing a favorite tune playing overhead while inside Starbucks.
Explorers are eager to learn, they want to linger in an area and soak up the atmosphere while tourists are satisfied with the dime tour and superficial trinkets. Most fast food companies treat customers as tourists. And many times, they even give them trinkets with a purchase of combo meal.
NH: What do you think is the most misunderstood thing about branding?
John: The biggest misunderstanding is that building the brand builds a business. So many companies say they need better branding to be more successful when the reality is "?¦ they need a better business.
Believe it or not, Starbucks never sought to build a brand. They were too busy building a business to worry about branding. It just so happens the result of building a healthy business is the creation of strong brand that connects on so many levels with customers.
A business cannot sustain itself on image, no matter how much money is dumped into sporadic, heavy-up advertising campaigns. Companies that put their money behind their brand and not their business fail to realize that the business is the brand. And to realize the full potential of the brand, one must work on and work in the business every day of every year.
NH: What can any company do no matter what it’s size to engender branding?
John: Starbucks tribal knowledge tells us that businesses can become endearing and enduring by having a vision, being purposeful, and acting with passion.
Having vision isn´t about predicting the future. It´s about taking advantage of opportunities. Starbucks simply took advantage of the opportunity to bring bolder, more flavorful coffee to customers.
Being purposeful is about having a desire to make a difference. Starbucks purposefully went about its business to get people to appreciate a better tasting cup of coffee. They sought to make a difference in people´s lives. It just so happens the company is making differences in the lives of people all over the world.
Acting with passion is about loving what you do. Starbucks learned early on that expressing passion in its business attracts passionate employees which in turn, attracts passionate customers.
NH: How has branding changed because of the Internet?
John: Customers today have access to more information than ever before which means companies have a harder time keeping secrets. I think because there are very few secrets left, businesses need to be more confident in the products and services they bring to market.
I say this because besides having more access to information, customers also have more tools to communication information. From blogs to vlogs, customers now have the opportunity to go from consumers to producers. If a business isn´t confident in their products and services then they will be susceptible to criticism from customers. Examples here include the Chevy Tahoe Apprentice online campaign, the Dell Hell case, and the recent launch of the Dell One2One blog.
NH: What are the top three things every company can and should ask it itself about its marketing practices to make certain they are getting the most out of them?
1. Strive to make the common uncommon. Nearly every admired business has made the common uncommon. Apple makes the common computer uncommon. In-N-Out Burger makes the common fast food hamburger uncommon. Ikea makes the common home furniture shopping experience uncommon. Whole Foods Market makes the common grocery shopping experience uncommon. And Starbucks makes the common cup of coffee uncommon.
2. Actions speak louder than advertising. Spend marketing dollars to make the product and experience better, not necessarily to make the advertising better.
3. Remember that marketing impacts more than just customers. Do you think all the in-store signage Starbucks posts is solely for customers? Think again. Starbucks´ in-store signage actually impacts employees more than it does customers.
NH: What are the issues you help companies resolve and how do you do that?
John: At the Brand Autopsy Marketing Practice, I serve as a "marketing doctor" to small-to-midsize businesses helping to diagnose and treat common marketing problems like anemic sales, ideation fatigue, poor brand complexion, and decision-making paralysis. For many of my clients, I offer them "second opinions" by giving assessments on which marketing activities they should stop doing, start doing, and or continue doing in order to maintain and grow healthy sales.