Starbucks is finally making its way to South Africa and if history is to repeat itself, the queues of people scrambling to get their grubby little mitts on the holy coffee chalice of America’s greatest caffeinated export, will take a couple of months after opening to abate.
With no officially scheduled advertising or promotion having ever been done in South Africa – how is it that we are so sure that middle-class worker bees will bludgeon each other to death with their iPad Minis to be seen enjoying a ridiculously complicated and expensive coffee drink?
It all comes down to ‘culture’ – America’s greatest export and a master stroke of national capitalist strategy, which started with Coca Cola sending free cans to American GIs fighting in WW2 and continued with hundreds of thousands of teenage girls swooning at the sight of Elvis Presley and his shaking hips.
American brands like Starbucks, movies, TV shows and icons have been influencing our thoughts and dreams since the day we got our first Mickey Mouse stuffed toy. Popular culture exported out of America has glamourously paved the way for American brands and business to simply grant access to their secret 7 herbs and spices where ever they decide to set up shop, and success is practically guaranteed.
Having a Starbucks or a Burger King in your country is like having a little piece of America – a window into freedom and dreams – right at your doorstep. Remember the infamous Winston cigarettes payoff line from the 80’s – Taste America, light a Winston? That sentiment perfectly sums up what Starbucks coming to South Africa really represents.
One sip of your Vanilla Bean Crème Frapp with an extra two squirts of raspberry syrup and you are Meryl Streep in Devil Wears Prada, you can imagine yourself as Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City. It’s an outstandingly brilliant strategy that really only applies to brands flying the red, white and blue.
Perception is everything and although intellectually you could argue that brand America has taken a few body blows in recent years, the allure of an invitation to partake in the illusion is as powerful as ever. It’s an intangible national asset that you just have to be envious of.
In-and-Out Burger, Whole Foods and Shake Shack – we’re waiting in hope for you.