A coffee war is brewing between Starbucks and McDonald's in an advertising onslaught

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An Intelligentsia latte - ready for drinking.

The 800 lbs. gorillas are highly caffeinated and ready for battle.

Starbucks and McDonald's are taking to the air, print and Web in an all-out campaign to win the hearts, minds and coffee-craving palettes of a culture obsessed with high-end coffee drinks. No, Cuppa Joe, you are not welcome here.

As McDonald's rolls out more lattes and mochas in its Cafe scheme with the promise of premium taste at a bargain price, Starbucks fires back with the bean there, done that idea that they invented specialty coffee and if you want the best, head for the green mermaid sign.

But while the fast food - yes, you are, Starbucks - behemoths square off, maybe we should be asking if either deserves our money?

Look, Starbucks is on every corner and McDonald's comes pretty close. And in a caffeine deprivation storm, any hot, foamy port will do. But if we're talking pure preference here, isn't our national brewing quest leaving out Dunkin' Donuts - and the ongoing "America Runs On Dunkin" campaign from the discussion?

And, more importantly, what about local roasters?

Chicago is no Pacific Northwest when it comes to the sheer number of small coffee shops, but we love our jolt just as much and are blessed with a good number of local talent, any list of which probably starts with Intelligentsia, but also includes Metropolis and the Chicago Coffee Co. to name a few.

But, perhaps in the end it all comes back to the big boys based on the age old measuring stick: Location, location, location. It's a lot easier to overlook deficiencies in either company's coffee offerings - McDonald's is too sweet, Starbucks too spendy - when you need walk no further than a couple blocks to find either one. And as this Pew Research Center survey from earlier this year indicates, Mcdonald's has a clear edge in people willing to be it's neighbor, though happiness, which could be interpreted as satisfaction, seems to be a push in the report:

So, whose camp followers are happier?

Turns out we have a virtual tie: Some 31% percent of those who prefer to have a Starbucks in their community describe themselves as very happy. So do 29% of those who would rather have a McDonald's in the neighborhood. And, for that matter, so do 27% of those who have no preference.

Does that point to a more basic preference from the masses looking to grab a cup? Time, and the ensuing marketing blitz, will tell. Until then, is it coffee break time yet?

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    This page contains a single entry by Craig Newman published on May 5, 2009 2:43 PM.

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