The new Starbucks advertisement was brilliantly thought out and executed. It’s a simple commercial with a simple message; playing on a number of key social points. Historically, before we could even fathom the idea of the internet, let alone a cell phone, it was a common social act for the bourgeoisie to gather at local coffee shops to discuss current affairs. Topics of conversation would range from anything and everything between gossip, politics and news. With coffee as a commodity in the 17th century, industrialization well on its way in the 18th and newspapers not having full expansion until mid to late 18th century, it was only natural that the elite would collectively meet with one another to discuss important matters.
We still have these coffee shops today, however they serve a slightly different purpose. Most people treat it as a quick caffeine stop then continue with their day. Today’s society is always on the move. We don’t have time to just sit and talk. We multitask, especially with the advent of technology giving us the advantage of easily getting in touch and spread our message to as many or as little people we want. In this era, majority of people don’t go to a coffee shop to sit and enjoy their coffee with someone and discuss politics (maybe sometimes, but rarely!) that is something they can quickly do through a text or web search of an article. Sometimes you might see people coming to a Starbucks to sit alone for quiet studying, which proves my point even more so – there aren’t enough people sitting in there chattering!
This brings me to my main event for discussing this commercial – how texting changed communication. It’s a deep subject to delve into and I have a relatively limited amount of words so I’ll try to keep it concise. Texting is the way we communicate anything and everything. Often time’s messages we send can be misconstrued and misinterpreted. Texting is considered a very impersonal form of communication. The most ideal communicative situation would be face-to-face. While being in the same physical space as someone, you get the whole context of the situation; we have the luxury to read the social cues, facial expressions, tone of voice etc. All elements are at your disposal to help interpret the situation in order to give an appropriate response. However, with texting we have the luxury to hide behind a screen, shielding our feelings – for better or worse. This is why the minimalism of this commercial is so brilliant. The thumbs up is meant as a symbol which we give meaning to, in this case it meant “yup”. The second hand symbol with the index and thumb making an o with three fingers extended – which I often would interpret as an “okay” – in this context is used to represent a “cool”. If it wasn’t for the background conversation, we may not necessarily have an idea of what is really going on. They would be empty, meaningless images. We are shown there is more to our texts than what meets the screen. The implication is clear, we are losing touch with real interpersonal connection. In the background we hear a conversation, presumably between the couple who sent that text, the man saying “I know that look” letting us understand that the woman still has extra feelings beyond the “yup everything’s cool, I am no longer mad” which are essential details of communicating that a text that can shield. We then hear a laugh, often a tension releaser, and her saying “at least you’re learning”, a conclusion that never would have been arrived at had the conversation ended at those four texts. We may be left feeling a bit ambiguous about the whole situation. These are elements only a face-to-face conversation can hold. Thus this is where Starbucks comes in with its message “sometimes the best way to connect is together”, which is inviting you to come to their store, have a coffee and a conversation. Their typical, signature décor with its earthy brown tones and plush leather couches offers you a homey feel, basically persuading you to have a seat.
Lastly, I want to quickly tie back to my mention of the elite coffee drinkers: Starbucks is also notorious for their pricey drinks. Thus, it still does have some connect to its historical roots, by creating a sense of hierarchy and prestige. Consequently, giving it the brand recognition that catches peoples eye, in a sense could be seen as the “affordable luxury brand” of artesian coffee drinkers.