Monday, 11 August 2008

The Frappuccino Brainwash

It's not just about waking up.
It's about making a lifestyle statement.

There is a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode in which a Virtual Reality game is being used to make the crew members of the Enterprise instantly addicted and which is later used by evil alien forces to brainwash the crew into giving up the starship.

Passing Starbucks on the way to work I felt very much reminded of this when one of the Baristas - dressed in the obligatory green apron - was handing out small cups of Frappuccino to the City professionals rushing by. It made me wonder when the adult population of the UK decided that life is not worth living unless one has at least consumed one ridiculously overpriced coffee-resembling product in the morning? Or whether it is potentially all part of a bigger scheme of the Baristas (which could -- for all I know -- be the name of an alien species) taking over the world and brainwashing us into succumbing to their Frothiness?

Looking at it differently, there are quite a few things around that a lot of people would argue they can't do without nowadays whereas 10 years ago nodody would have had them on the list of bare necessities. IPods, Wi-Fi, Facebook, Vitamin Water etc etc.

The key, and this is where the magic called marketing comes in, is making people believe that they genuinely cannot do without. Making it part of a lifestyle that people want to adopt, part of a culture that everybody wants to be part of.

It doesn't require a genius to sell water in the Sahara, but making people want to spend £4 for an iced coffee beverage takes a bigger effort.

It seems to have worked quite well for a while.

As long as a lot of people were making money like the girl in the Starbucks logo is catching gold coins, the strategy seemed to have paid off nicely. Looking at Starbucks closing down stores, h0wever, makes you wonder whether the Venti Caramel Frappucino is now moving from the "must-have" to the "could-do without" list, in particular when the cost of regular visits add up to the order of magnitude of a monthly travelcard.

Of course, everybody has to decide for themselves what they are cutting out of their daily routine when it seems that expenses are getting a bit out of hand. Whether it's the cab ride home, the Frappuccino, the lunchtime sushi rather than the M&S takeaway etc.

Always assuming that there is no evil head Barista in the mothership flipping a switch so that we find ourselves walking brainlessly to their next outlet mumbling:

Must - Drink - Frappuccino.