Recently, I had the chance to visit a couple of Starbucks stores in Seoul, Korea. There is an interesting coffee scene going on right now in Seoul. Western-ish coffee stores are everywhere (more perhaps than in the US and UK) and all kinds of people are using them, as meeting spots and hanging out spots. But the coffee scene in Seoul is a bigger story for another post. Back to Starbucks.
Starbucks in Korea, unlike most countries, spells out the name of its stores in Korean not English.
But despite this difference in signage, I was reminded again and again in Korea of something I heard in Japan while giving a talk on my book, Everything But The Coffee. After I gave my presentation and explained that I had been to more than 400 Starbucks stores in 11 countries around the world, a hand went up. "Couldn't you have found out what you discovered in a single Starbucks?" he asked. And the answer was, "yes, probably." Starbucks stores are more similar than different, and this isn't just about product control, about a grande latte in Salt Lake City tasting exactly the same as one in Seoul. (By the way, the Americanos I had in Korea at Starbucks were almost undrinkable.)
Just like in the UK and US, Starbucks in Korea sold the notion of "self gifting" -- of giving yourself a treat.
And like in Spain, France, Malaysia, China, and the US, Starbucks in Korea sold the idea of community. It did this through the use of the bright community board. (Notice though most of the posts are actually about Starbucks.)
And finally, Starbucks in Korea, and in Indonesia and Japan, sells the idea of comfortable diversity. The idea is that difference is good because we are all essentially the same. And we all want the finer things in life, a cup of coffee on soft sofa. Check out this sign about learning Korean from Starbucks.