So this is how advertising works:

  1. Half listen to ads on commute radio, trying to dodge early morning traffic jams.
  2. Go about your business, feel like you’ve done a good day’s work, think about taking a break, see a familiar sign and pull over.
  3. Walk towards door, notice new posters in yellows and browns, think “Nice”.
  4. Inside see friendly, calming green being sported by the employees, think “That’s new”.
  5. Scan the blackboard for what’s on offer and see new beverage, think “Hhhm, might try that”.
  6. New beverage arrives in very own branded cup (“made with 45% fewer carbon emissions”).
  7. Put two and two together and realise I’ve been Starbucked.

I don’t really mind, because I believe good marketing deserves its rewards. Rolling out a new product and not supporting it with all you’ve got would be wasting the only opportunity to make a good first impression. Whether the new Vivanno smoothie will fill the gap of hot sandwiches over the lunch hour remains to be seen. Touted as healthy, we all know it contains ingredients far too addictive for that, especially if you add a shot of espresso as I did. On top of which, I’d like to see how they get “one whole banana” in each of these little sample cups grass-skirted baristas were handing out yesterday!


Whoops, there goes another American brand… as the Belgian owners of Stella Artois snatch up Budweiser. Perhaps it’s not such a bad match, as beer critics suggest one brand is pretty much as bland as the other, which would explain why each relies so heavily on big advertising spend to differentiate and create an image of ‘cool’ or ‘premium’ or ‘traditional’ horse-heritage or whatever the current strategy calls for.


Joining those other non-US brands like IBM’s PCs (China) and 7-Eleven (Japan), the latest brand to change hands will have to focus on local market share erosion as national pride is likely to dig in its heels. The point is to reassure and sustain mass interest, as there is nothing more powerful than the backlash from alienated loyal consumers.


With Starbucks’ marketers coming out in force with traditional media campaigns (radio and press ice-cube ads), online loyalty programs (sign-up and get free stuff) and more sampling than ever, plus a PR campaign that boosted the share price upon the announcement that 600 stores were closing (weird that), you might wonder who is stalking the Mermaid’s lair.


One thing is clear, any company tightening its marketing purse-strings in an economic downturn needs to fire its accountancy department. Now, more than ever, is the time to use horse sense with your marketing budget and consistently remind your target audience that you are still out there.

than making cold calls. Yet I know people who get a real kick out of picking up the phone and dialling a fresh new number to enrapture the unknown voice on the other end of the line. Hello, did you know that I could make a big difference to your life… 

So it is time to hone in on those skills as practice makes, you know. And being a woman who can multi-task, I might just wash those windows at the same time: 

Hello, isn’t it a gorgeous day? The sun is desperate to pour through those grand windows of yours, but is struggling to find a way in through the grime. Imagine a clear, sparkling view of the first crocuses pushing up the slumbering soil of your garden. See that purply-white splodge turn into a crisp and beautiful flower!  

Ahm, you have a window cleaner?  

Well, consider the secondary benefit of saving money on the window cleaner AND on fitness classes while reaching, stretching, swiping and gliding over those windows yourself. It’s more than a money-saver; it’s a way of life! 

You live on the 35th floor? 

Well, yes, and what a glorious view of the mountains you are missing out on because your view is obstructed by the dirty little particles on the inside of your window. 

It’s pouring with rain? 

Well, yes, it is Vancouver, after all. Have a nice day.

Did you hear the one about the Bob who stood at the pearly gates and admitted he hadn’t called before he dug? Bob also hits a fine ball on the green and knows the easy way to buy office stationary. Bob’s an expert eco-friendly investor, an authority on long-distance calls, and works part-time as an accountant. Busy guy, our palindrome friend. Or is he an acronym?  

As busy as the copywriter behind all of these radio commercials? Or are you telling me there’s some sort of secret Bob contract that ALL copywriters in every Canadian ad shop have to sign up to? Whatever their intention, by blending the name of every character in every ad, from insurance choices to the right sports brand, into a patchwork Bob, they are distracting from the product or service they are supposed to be promoting. Our Bob brand may have started as a bit of a bet around the coffee pot (highest Bob score in any given commercial break wins), but it appears the tables are turning. A few cases of inverse distraction to pay homage to your regular Bob on the street and what happens? Clients start insisting on hiring the infamous Bob to star in their 30” radio spots. 

Inevitably all the bobbing around is leaving the paying brands high and dry. Whatever will they do next to not make their marque stand out from the crowd?

As I was saying, there’s something to be said for the smoke-free environment of Starbucks in Germany, despite Janice Turner’s rather fun-to-read post. While she does have a point about great German coffee, it comes at the price of service without a smile and a fog of cloud and none of those comfy seats.

What I can’t believe about Starbucks is that they’re turning the whole experiential thing into a cheap commodity to vie for some of the lower-end market space. Is there nothing sacred? If I wanted a swig of black I could try any one of a thousand outlets and regret the $1 option.

On the subject of price, it is true that Caffé Nero in the UK offers a stronger brew for less dough, but I’d argue that was to compensate for its nicotine environment, at least until the smoking ban came into effect last year. That’s the real difference between Brits and Germans – never mind that it’s law, a ban on smoking in public places just isn’t taken seriously in Germany, where not even the police are enforcing a penalty if they catch you smoking.

Grouse Mountain, our local ski slope on the North Shore, has opened for business, so it’s officially time to get with the white. How appropriate for the heavens to open on the same weekend and sugar-sprinkle our lawns so that we can quickly try out the Snow Elephant – it  can be done, with plenty of Frappuccinos to get you in the size. 

How charming to see the iced peaks outlining Vancouver when the clouds roll aside. I am assured the view will soon be even better. Half a century on, Vancouver’s last giant rooftop billboard is finally heading south. Erected long before skyline restrictions were in place, the 4-decade old battle to de-clutter our resplendent view has reached a costly closure: deconstruction costs are set to cleanly wipe out all advertising revenue in one fell swoop. Never mind that building heights have continually inched up, and the city’s Skyline Study informs us that Vancouver’s flat (no British pun intended) skyline would benefit from a splash of buildings to exceed current height limits and provide a more contemporary vista. All the while augmenting those protected corridors of view of our natural North Shore beauties.

Cool. Or should I say sweet?