The Story of the Most Important Place in the World for Meetings

As destinations and venues all over the world try to convince people that theirs’ is THE place to gather, I reflected back on where many of my most important meetings have taken place.

Simple. Starbucks.

Let’s face it, who HASN’T had an important meeting at Starbucks? I’ve seen everything from job interviews, to theatre auditions, to creative reviews happen at Starbucks. And they happen on college campuses, in airports…even at the Great Wall of China.

So what makes Starbucks the world’s “go-to” meeting place? Obviously they are a globally known and accessible brand…but so is KFC and no one is saying “let’s brainstorm over a bucket of finger lickin’ good chicken”.

Make no mistake about it, meetings are part of Starbucks’ business. But they look at their meeting story much differently than a DMO does.

Their story is about what happens when people gather at Starbucks. Its not about the square footage of their stores, the comfort of their chairs or how many parking spots they have. (But they do have free WIFI!). Their story is perfectly articulated in this commercial:

“Every day, good things happen when we get together.” Simple. Authentic. Human. They don’t even show their coffee. 

There are some interesting learnings from Starbucks in here for destination marketers and meeting industry advocates:

(1) Starbucks has figured out that meetings are first and foremost about people and the magic that happens when they get together. Its not about the room they meet in, the technology they use or what they eat when they get there. I know there’s a lot of pressure on DMOs to showcase their stakeholders’ businesses. Starbucks doesn’t even show their coffee. I am willing to bet that showcasing the legacies that have been created as a result of meeting in the destination would resonate more than presenting another staged meeting room set-up.

(2) Nobody cares about the number of cups of coffee Starbucks serves or the number of people they employ. Big numbers don’t resonate with anyone these days…because everyone has them…or can create them. Starbucks story is always the human perspective of their guest. Telling the destination story through the eyes of the visitor or the meeting attendee is more relevant and authentic than anything or anyone else. As the amazing Bruce Turkel says: “Its all about THEM.”

I had a professor in university who once challenged us to figure out what would happen if Microsoft (this was in the last century) got into the travel business. We thought they would fail because they “didn’t know the business”. Well they did and Expedia changed (for the better) the world of consumer travel purchasing forever. 

Starbucks is in the business of bringing people together and monetizing those connections around the coffee house culture. I wonder what would happen if Starbucks was to add a free, easily reservable (on a smartphone) private meeting room to some of its locations? No contracts. No F&B minimums. Free wifi. A compelling powerful global story about how the magic of human connections can change peoples’ worlds.

No one thought Microsoft would do it either.

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One thought on “The Story of the Most Important Place in the World for Meetings

  1. Nailed this one Bruce. I love that they don’t show a cup of coffee in their advertising. I’d love to see an ad of a hotel or attraction or even a mode of transportation in our industry that was brave enough to NOT show us the product, but to create the metaphor of what that product can do for us. Yes, a much harder thing to get across but how powerful when it happens!

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