Hailing from Australia, the flat white is often a blend of 2 shots of expresso and microfoam. While the flat white is loved by many, it’s also known for its air of sophistication and exotic origins.
For Starbucks, they’re using the language of “flat white,” along with cultural understandings and customers’ previous experience with the drink to expand their story. Sarah Kessler, a reporter at Fast Company, articulates Starbucks’ strategy,
“Whatever a flat white is supposed to be, here’s one thing it most certainly is, at least at Starbucks: It’s a new product that borrows a name with some cultural weight, regardless of how closely it sticks to that culture’s definition.”
Often the most powerful part of your brand’s story is not the narrative you provide – it’s the stories and experiences that your customers bring to the table, and the nuances they add. Your audience’s beloved memories, first encounters, and understandings are as important to your story as the witty and polished lines you produce.
I know for myself, when I first saw Starbucks’ promotions for the flat white, I was immediately drawn back to time spent abroad. You see, Europe warmly embraced the “flat white” trend sooner, and while traveling through the United Kingdom I fell in love with the sharp, yet sweet, flavor of the drink. The Starbucks flat white may fall flat in comparison, but because of my experiences and cultural understanding of the drink, I likely will order the $4-something cup next time I stop in.
Starbucks recognizes the experiences that individuals bring to the table, the intrigue of the new menu item, and the cultural significance the drink originally holds.
We’ve talked recently about being “unique,” but often we forget that there is value in capitalizing on what has already been done–in our own way. Starbucks hasn’t created anything new and extraordinary, but merely put their twist on a style of coffee that has been around for quite some time. They’re inviting their customers to bring cultural understandings and encounters with the “flat white,” capitalizing on the intrigue of the new item, to create a new narrative surrounding the beverage with their brand standing front and center.
Your brand’s story is not just your own.