We live in a “brand” world. If you don’t buy shoes from Gucci, eat Burger King’s eco-friendly fries, or try that new Lancôme lipstick then you are outdated and prehistoric. Those tycoons sit in the CEO’S office, running around our lives while we submit to their spell wherever we are. We anticipate their next move and we look forward to whatever they pitch at us, even though it drastically affects our salaries and kind of turns us into zombie-like, branding-crazed creatures. Is Starbucks one of these companies? Definitely, yes.
Starbucks is a Mecca for all caffeine addicts. It might not offer the greatest coffee in the world but it certainly is the largest coffeehouse company in the world with over 20,000 stores in 62 countries, including 13,279 in the United States alone. Starbucks doesn’t just offer you a soothing cup of coffee or a side muffin, Starbucks designs your cup, shapes your drinking experience and allows you to take that “coffee” into a whole different category from a “drink” to a “lifestyle anchor”. Starbucks’s menu is always updated, with a variety of hot and cold beverages, whole bean or ground coffee , naturally-flavored coffee, seasonal drinks, different roast-type coffee, full leaf teas and also a creative menu of bagels, pretzels, fritters and snacks. The coffeehouse chains also sell hot and cold sandwiches, fresh bakery, Starbucks-branded candy bars, ice-cream, coffee and chocolate bars.
Starbucks has also designed a logo that can never be forgotten: the twin-tailed mermaid –siren, melusine, pick your favorite classification- against a green background with her hair draped over each side, hiding both of her breasts. In the original brown logo that was used from 1971 to 1987, the siren was topless and her double, fish tail was visible. But the green logo that we’re all accustomed to now starting 1992 is the one that stuck. One can’t imagine holding a paper Starbucks cup without the siren gazing at us with her twin-tail, and the crown above her head, promising us one cup of coffee we will never forget.
The Arab world with all its religious conservativeness and Islamic extremism has always had trouble with Starbucks. Despite the coffeehouse chain having growing popularity there, Muslim clerics and sheikhs have always preached against Starbucks, likening a cup of coffee at the café to a coffin carrying a Palestinian child. Among their claims, the company green logo actually represents Queen Esther, the heroine in the story of Purim. A hoax letter published on the internet claimed that President, Chairman and CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz sends a percentage of the Starbucks profits to the Israeli military.
Ranging from “Zionist conspiracy” to “American cultural invasion”, Starbucks has had a lot of boycotting campaigns starting against it in the Arab world. Most of the campaigns –initiated by Islamist University students in all cases- fail to gain supporters, however, whenever Starbucks’s trademark coffee brews in the espresso machine.
Starbucks has never been away from political controversy, if we may say. Starbucks has never instituted a “gun banning” policy in their stores which garnered it a number of “boycotting campaigns” and subjected it to wide criticism. In 2013, Howard Schultz wrote an open letter on the company’s website asking people not to bring their guns to the stores. It was more of a plea than a banning policy, but still it aimed to close the door on scrutiny, or so the company hoped. As of 2012, a Starbucks executive stated openly that he supported same-sex marriage which resulted in a backlash from conservative political groups and same-sex marriage opponents.
Recently, Starbucks has taken on its toll to get involved in the US government shutdown dilemma. The world’s largest coffee chain has started a megapetition titled “Come together”. The threeday petition encourages US citizens to write letters that express their outrage at the government, ask lawmakers to reopen the government and reach a long-term budget deal by the end of 2013. Twenty million coffee-lovers are expected to either visit their nearest Starbucks branch, sign the petition digitally at ComeTogetherPetition.com or “like” the petition’s Facebook post.
Starbucks is not just aroma and desserts. It’s a life-changing cup of coffee, at least on an individual level.
Written by: Jaylan Salah