My fathers country pub was a living room. In fact, it was the best living room you have ever been in.
It was filled with your friends, your favourite seat. The second you walked in you were made to feel welcome and offered a drink. It wasn’t glass and steel, it was a country pub. The walls had lots of pictures of the family; the locals. Their achievements and nods to their trades. Maps from fishermen, shelves filled with trophies from their competitions. It was were the local people belonged, the fact it sold beer by the pint was a glorious extra benefit.
Howard Shultz would have called my Dad’s pub, the local community’s 'third place’.
That's what he wants you to think of his coffee shop. After home (first) and work (second), is a comfortable third place, Starbucks. With wifi, sofas and the cork boards on the wall showing the local projects for allotments and book swops. Its not as fine tuned to the community as my fathers pub was, but then with 21,000 stores in 65 countries that would be a branding nightmare.
Truth is, without the physical store, the physical brand, Starbucks would just be coffee.
Jeff Bezos has the same challenge this Christmas. Amazon are moving towards the hardware market in a big way. Kindle e-readers, Fire smartphone and Fire TV set-top boxes need to be sold, but the only relationship we have with the Amazon brand is the brown box that arrives on our door. So the Seattle based company is setting up shop, in Midtown manhattan. A place to touch and talk to the Amazon brand for real.
As a digital designer I love this circle being completed.
We spent years learning how to create the best experience online, to cut the high street out of the equation. It worked too, the recession and the internet closed down the high street. 'For let' boards covered large panes of glass up and down the once bustling high street.
But brands need to Bond and somewhere along the line we forgot that.
Brands need to get out and talk to customers, show that they get their needs. I predict the high street will rise again, but this time in tune with the digital experience.
If the high street experience can be your warm, comfortable 'third place', then digital can be a way to bring a little of that brand into your first place. That's fine by me.