Saturday, March 03, 2007
It's always funny when big businesses start talking about 'core values'. I remember Hewlett Packard's absurd campaign suggesting the company was being returned to the spirit of the garage in which it began. I think I got one of the printers made in that garage. Now the chairman of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, has sent a memo saying the company should 'get back to the core'. This means, primarily, seeing employees grind beans and ensuring shops are filled with the smell of roasting coffee. Read the usual New York Times's flaccid and overlong account of the affair here. Starbucks is currently growing faster than Macdonald's ever did. Shopping has become a hurried business as one lives in constant fear that any store may turn into a Starbucks in mid-transaction. The authenticity craved by Schultz is plainly hard to sustain in the midst of such an imperial expansion. But is it, was it ever, authenticity? I like Starbucks, it did indeed create a 'third place' as Schultz puts it, though for me, since I work at home, it is more accurately a second place. But its 'authenticity' is a marketing device, no more and no less. Apart from anything else, the idea that one culture's concept of authenticity could work globally is ridiculous. What is interesting, however, is that the appeal of authenticity - or 'core values' - is so strong. Globalisation intensifies the need to believe.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 8:07 am