yellow umbrella

Everyone wants a brand that is different, or at least they should and most brands approach competitive difference to maintain uniqueness in the market. Often though we find that most organizations say they want to be distinctive yet really they simply want to align or conform with the rest of the industry.  I decided to look at coffee providers, Starbucks and Seattle’s Best. I figured that the two would be competitive with each other as they are both Seattle born organizations. Through my research I discovered they are both owned by Starbucks. I had no idea! But it still made sense to me to compare their brands and what they are marketing to their consumers and what kind of loyalty and following they are attempting to draw.

Seattle’s Best Coffee


Seattle’s best website is overall lively and interactive. On their main page they have quick links to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and email. The hot buttons to those social media sites make it quick and easy for loyal followers to post blurbs about a visit to a store or a product. Overall the Seattle’s Best website has a spunky almost retro feel to it that draws the consumer in to interact and click buttons like a small child at a play place playground. The navigation of the site is quirky and fun, rather than simple click and wait for a new page to load, it is interactively moving and scrolling images and information at the user. Starbucks is looking to make Seattle’s Best Coffee their fast-food channel of coffee as well as diving into convenience stores and drive through restaurants.



Starbucks website has more of a corporate feel to it. It’s overall represented very squarely with simple, standard navigation. They do not offer any quick links to social media sites like Seattle’s Best did which may not engage as many people to quickly tweet or load a pic from a visit to one of their locations. Starbucks seems more like a retail hub, a place for a follower to remain brand strong and purchase goods online through the store. Starbucks offers more in terms of their vision and corporate responsibility, my impression is they are the older sibling of the two ventures that purports a responsible image about the coffee industry. 

Each organization draws attention to their brand differently than the other. While both would draw loyalty from all age groups it is my impressions that Starbucks feels more refined and is a place for a nice cup of coffee while conducting an offsite meeting with a client or work group. Meeting up with friends for a friendly cup of joe. Seattle’s best is kitschy and seems like it would draw a younger crowd looking for more of a retro, quick, less ‘fancy’ type service overall. They still offer the same value and environment of hanging out chatting with others but it seems hip and edgy in a way in comparison to the Starbucks environment.

How can organizations create a meaningful difference in their brand to call attention to themselves?

  • Go slow – Rushing the process can create a disaster, a longer process is needed to build a classic timepiece.
  • Use country of origin to your advantage – seek to build brand associations with countries that support your reputation, vision and innovation.
  • Behave differently – go above and beyond your followers expectations by providing a top-notch service that is world-class.
  • Look different – brands and products with their own unique identity stand out and make a lasting impression.
  • Be the underdog – underdogs win the compassionate consumer by telling a true hard work inspired story.
  • Be unapologetically shocking – if you are going to grab your audience by the throat the outrage must link to a solution and that solution should be your organization.
  • Expand your appeal – discover the untapped audience in your industry and draw them in, intensify their experience and loyalty to your brand.
  • Create a new category – step outside the bounds of other categories to define a uniqueness associated with your brand.
  •  Tell a story that defines you – telling a story that is unique to you and defines you gives your followers a connection to both you and the brand.

Overall the features or a product of service may distinguish its brand from the competition. This can be difficult to maintain over time as competitors are always looking to offer something better. However a service feature is something a company provides. Employees who interact with customers face-to-face are instrumental to customer loyalty. Customers who are attracted to a brand will become further sold when they connect to an employee and that interaction creating loyalty. The brand bond goes beyond the product but also how the customer feels when engaging with staff.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. megtg0928
    Jan 22, 2014 @ 15:50:43

    Millie, interesting blog post! This is a strategy that other coffee shop companies may want to look at utilizing. Creating another brand within your company in order to reach out to a different target like Starbucks has with Seattle’s Best! I absolutely love Starbucks, but have definitely noticed the influx of Seattle’s Best quite a bit throughout New England.


  2. Beth Posocco
    Jan 25, 2014 @ 15:32:11

    I was aware that both of these companies were owned by Starbucks, but it is interesting to see how they differ. As you explained, it seems each brand has its own image and feel. I wonder how exactly their products differ. I have heard people say they prefer Seattle’s Best coffee to Starbucks coffee.


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