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In a commentary yesterday about a survey saying that an enormous number of people think that Starbucks is overpriced, I questioned the accuracy of the results, saying that it has been a long time since I’d been to a Starbucks that wasn’t crowded.

MNB user Jessica Hui responded:

While it's an apt observation that the results of surveys and polls may not necessarily be accurate representations of population at large, your comment on the sample size of the Rasmussen survey is, as stated, misguided. Basic statistics shows that the sample size of the survey (1000 people, as you pointed out) has little to no bearing on the accuracy of the survey's representation. It's the methodology behind the selection of these 1000 people that affects the margin of error and, in turn, the accuracy with which the survey mirrors the views of a larger population. A sample size of a few thousand people could conceivably provide a reliable, accurate representation of the views of the entire U.S. population. The more random the selection, the better -- if the folks at Rasmussen were to actually go and seek out 760 respondents who rarely or never visit Starbucks as you suggested (which is rather unlikely), then this lack of randomness would certainly create a big hole in the survey results. But, again, it would be this deliberate (vs. random) selection of the sample that would tarnish the results, NOT the sample size itself.

Fair enough. I certainly didn’t mean to suggest that the folks at Rasmussen were deliberately skewing the results…just that maybe the numbers don't match the reality. The older I get, the more I distrust polls – whether they be about presidential politics or coffee shops.

In fact, maybe there is a connection here.

One of the things I keep hearing is that you can't trust the political polls this year because they are only calling people with landlines, and an enormous number of people (20 percent of the electorate?) only have cell phones, and therefore are not being counted.

I wonder if an unusually high percentage of Starbucks aficionados also only use cell phones, and therefore are not being counted in such surveys.

Just a question, really.

Writing about a government study that essentially said that if you eat right and exercise more, you reduce the likelihood of having a stroke, I commented that next week we’ll be seeing “a multi-million dollar study funded by our tax dollars that will reveal that if you smoke, eat and drink too much, never exercise and let yourself go, the odds will improve that you are going to die sooner rather than later.”

MNB user Richard Thorpe wrote:

Not to be harsh but some of us feel this way about the way you repeat yourself in regards to Starbucks. Humans need repetition in word and action. When it comes to health – Repeat – Repeat – Someone who didn’t get it last time may get it this time, someone who missed the last obvious report may read this one. Perhaps the entire study covered other health issues and Reuters only reported the part that you commented on. Who knows? Plain soy latte for me.

Again, fair enough.

Maybe I was a little tough on this one. I always struggle with the issue of repetition…the problem here is that with 75-100 new subscribers a week, there are always people out there who aren’t familiar with my biases, haven't read my commentaries, and haven't heard the jokes.

Thank goodness.

MNB user Bob Bartels had an interesting take on the repetition:

Another example of the scratched dog syndrome. A dog continues to scratch an open wound on its ribs not because the wound still itches but because it is the only place it can scratch.

On the subject of Starbucks’ strategic imperatives (a subject that, I confess, I cannot get enough of), one MNB user wrote:

We both know…the growth and success of a brand is not always linear. In the late 80’s, Nike had just surpassed adidas in the US with a 30% market share…Reebok came along in the late 80’s and redefined the fitness segment of the market and in a few short years came from virtually no market share to move past NIKE with 33% market share while NIKE market share shrunk to 20%...NIKE responded and recaptured the lead from Reebok and never looked back (today adidas owns Reebok and together adidas and Reebok markets share don’t even come close to NIKE’s dominance)…and NIKE has gone on to also dominate world markets…Lesson…great brands know how to respond…and it probably is not wise to listen to irrelevant research or a newspaper guy from the Denver Post guess at what a brand is doing. Let’s watch Starbucks work their branding magic and learn some lessons.


I guess that the corollary to that is that some brands are going to be Nike, some brands are going to be Reebok, and some brands are going to be New Balance. Not only am I okay with the idea of being New Balance, I’d actually prefer it if I had that kind of brand. But it is up to companies to decide where and what they want to be, and then develop strategies and tactics to support that decision.

BTW…I noted that a Denver Post story on the subject quoted a pundit that I described as having “a clearly overdeveloped ego.” And I got a couple of emails yesterday asking me if that kind of personal attack was going a little over the line.

Normally, I’d agree with you. But in this case, no. The pundit that I criticized was, in fact, me.

On the general subject of educating employees, one MNB user wrote:

There was a thread about a week back about today’s store managers lacking skills or something to that effect. The one thing that I would point out is that there is a complete generation of store managers that have never had to manage in inflationary times and we have had to educate them on the fact that if your up 2% in sale but inflation is 3% you’re falling behind. Sorry to be so cryptic and didn’t necessarily the preceding for publication but, thought it was a point worth bringing out in this slim margin business.

Excellent point.

And, on the subject of what I guess you could call the gourmet ice craze, MNB user Kevin McCaffery wrote:

I am sure the same thing was said about bottled H2O, and we know what happened to that little idea. Also I was in Fresh and Easy last week in CA and in the freezer they where selling bags of flavored ice, Orange, Lemon and Lime….


KC's View: