Monday, February 27, 2006

Starbucks and Godiva: A Korean View

Many Korean business owners see Starbucks as a model business. It's business model warrents frequent mention, even in the Korean university classroom.

Korean Times
Last week, I [the Korean writer] discussed the widespread emulation of the American coffeehouse chain Starbucks in Asia, but these copycats are poor substitutes for the power and allure packed into the original Starbucks brand.

While a company can always copy the appearance of another company’s identity, it can never reproduce the sublimity of a brand’s history or inspiration, rendering it little more than a copycat corporation.

This is particularly logical when considering the story behind the brand name and logo of Starbucks. The name Starbucks is derived from Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick as noted by its chairman Howard Schultz in the book Pour Your Heart into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time.

According to Schultz, one of the company’s founders tried to draw inspiration from the novel when naming their small coffee house in Seattle and proposed the name Pequod, after the ship in the novel, his favorite read.

The other partners rejected the idea in favor of something with a stronger local flavor, resulting in the tentative name Starbo, which is an old mining camp on Mt. Rainier, near Seattle, the home of Starbucks. It just so happened that Pequod’s first mate was named Starbuck, and Starbucks became the final name.

In that sense, the company may consider each and every customer to be the sailor Starbuck. When you walk by a Starbucks, do you find yourself strangely drawn to the store? If so, there is an explanation _ a theory that explains the attraction of the mythical character in the middle of the Starbucks logo.

The Starbucks symbol conceptualizes the Greek mythological siren, which is believed to lure sailors to destruction with her enchanting singing. The sea nymph, a kind of prototype mermaid, represents female sexual mystery. The two appendages to the left and right of the siren in today's Starbucks logo are her fins.

In the original logo, however, the double-tailed siren is holding them apart in a suggestive pose. The image of the siren, which underwent a few revisions before achieving its current modest look, therefore symbolizes the seductiveness and allure of coffee.

Sensuality in Chocolate

Beauty or seduction has long been a common inspiration for decadent or luxurious product names. When combined with a mythological or mysterious twist, the product name is transformed from elegant to enchanting.

The Starbucks’ siren, for instance, is an irresistible temptress. The siren then creates the illusion of coffee as a tempting tonic, which normal people will find mysteriously alluring.

A similar concept is applied to the famous Belgian Chocolatier, Godiva, which is perhaps one of the world’s best-known luxury confectionaries. The company was launched in 1926 by Joseph Draps, catering to a market of high-quality ingredients, rich taste, an expensive price tag, and upscale packaging.

His wife suggested Godiva as an appropriate moniker for this symbol of sinful pleasure as well as grace and nobility, deriving from the legendary Lady Godiva of Ninth Century Coventry, England. In contrast, the industry’s early pioneer brands like Lindt of Swiss and Hershey’s of the U.S. were simply named after their founders.

Chocolate was a source of romance and lore all its own in Europe as recently as the late 19th century. People used to think of chocolate as something to drink, not eat. They congregated at chocolate bars in exactly the same way that people now meet at coffeehouses.

According to legend, Godiva was a beautiful Anglo-Saxon lady who agreed to ride naked through the streets of Coventry in exchange for a remission of an oppressive tax imposed by her husband.

The citizens of the town were to stay indoors and not look at the naked lady. A tailor however disobeyed these orders and bore a hole in his shutters to catch a glimpse. His action gave rise to the phrase peeping Tom.

While the heroine may be considered courageous and honorable for having performed this unthinkable deed on behalf of her townspeople, underlying the heroic act is a powerful sexual image of a beautiful nude woman and a coveting man.

The story borders on amusement and fiction, peppered with sexual elements ranging from exhibitionism to voyeurism. The irresistible temptation to look at that which is forbidden is a clear analogy to the self-indulgence inducing powers of the chocolatier.

The oldest Godiva store in the U.S. sits on a stretch of Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue which also included Tiffany & Co. on the north end and Cartier to the south. The location itself speaks volumes about the identity of the brand.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the scoop on Starbucks and Godiva. Check out my blog for pics of the older Starbucks logos!