I started this series last week, curious to learn what brands cause such loyalty as to have a blog established to dialog about it - unpaid, unsponsored. First I'm examining the Starbucks Gossip(SG) blog, since I'm sitting here drinking a Venti triple cappucino. In reviewing SG, 2 things stand out:Starbucks' image (positive and negative) in the marketplace, and human beings' overwhelming need to belong to something unique.

There seem to be 2 camps of Starbucks pundits out there, those who swear by it, and those who think it's the caffeinated version of Wal-Mart the Evil Empire. The latter are the folks you hear droning on about how there are Starbucks sitting literally across the street from one another, as if they contain nuclear warheads or something. It is also interesting that Starbucks baristas and clerks vent on this site, so one feels they are getting the inside story. Again I'll point to the "poor-man's latte" scandal which came to light when baristas complained on this blog about it.

Secondly, and this has more to do with Starbucks' marketing genius, human beings have an overwhelming need to feel they belong to something unique. It is well known and often lampooned that Starbucks has its own language, and if you are 'in' you know it and can speak it. Furthermore, you are not only "hip", but you'll pay a premium to do so. Every day, people in their right minds line up and pay upwards of $4 for a drink which is 95% water and cost Starbucks five to ten cents. To blog about it takes the "cultishness" to another level.

I've also learned by listening to this lingo that there are 'sub-customizations' of their drinks which aren't listed on the menu board. I only learned what they were by hearing someone order them, asking what it was, and later ordering it myself. Americans LOVE this. Our culture is swimming in customization, from ultra limited edition all-over print hooded sweatshirts which garner upwards of $1000, to ringtones, to desktop themes, to 'Pimp My Ride' we've never wanted to be unique more than this time in our society. Enter Starbucks, where if you can order a "venti wet quad skim caramel cappucino with 2 pumps" and know what it means, you are part of the 'club'.