It's been said competition makes one better. Stronger. Or maybe just more alert. So perhaps Starbucks, which has been struggling to regain its once-vaunted mojo, should thank Dunkin' Donuts for helping the Seattle-based java chain realize just how far it had strayed from its core brand mission in recent years. For Dunkin' has been relentlessly pushing the message that it has a better coffee product than Starbucks.
Dunkin' even created a dedicated Web site, www.dunkinbeatstarbucks.com, to pound home the point that its coffee beat out Starbucks in a national blind taste test. The pounding continues this week via a new t-shirt campaign -- visitors to Dunkin' Donuts outlets will find staff wearing tees that remind customers what good friends are for, namely keeping Starbucks brew far from the lips of cherished buddies. We doubt the t-shirts will influence, in any major way, whether customers frequent Dunkin' or Starbucks, but it is another reminder that Starbucks is now vulnerable in a way no one might have imagined five or 10 years ago.
And based on what we've personally experienced of the Starbucks turnaround effort here in Chicago, we can say things aren't entirely turned around yet. We've been to three or four different Starbucks outlets in recent days late in the day and found that all were out of the bananas needed for the Vivanno product. Not the end of the world, to be sure, but an annoying discovery for a customer who came to a Starbucks specifically for a Vivanno.