Starbucks Launches 1912 Pike Pub—Just Don’t Call it Starbucks Magazine


Starbucks 1912 Pike

It’s been a dozen years since Abercrombie & Fitch published its last A&F Quarterly, the scandalous and often intellectually robust magazine containing editorial and photo content. A&F was ahead of its time, with brand-sponsored editorial content now exploding.

The latest big brand publication is from Starbucks. Just don’t call it Starbucks Magazine.

The pub is called 1912 Pike and it offers articles about why fresh coffee matters, how mold is threatening coffee crops, where coffee comes from, and of course a little note about Starbucks’ new initiative to plant a tree for every bag of beans purchased. The introductory note from the editors reads:

“It’s the address of our first store in Seattle, started by a few people that had an intense love for coffee and wanted to share it with others. If you walked in that shop, you didn’t leave without learning something or having your curiosity piqued. We created this version of 1912 Pike in that same spirit. Our partners sharing what they know and love about coffee. A place you can return to often to discover something new and share in the magic of coffee.”

The best marketers know that the best marketing is education. Consumers are first and foremost interested in themselves. Sell a customer a thing and he has a thing. Teach a customer why that thing makes him a better person and he is connected to that thing.

This kind of branding through education has existed for decades. Ford published its lifestyle magazine Ford Times for an astonishing 88 years, starting in 1908. Ford Times featured watercolor paintings by well known artists and travelogues about road trips to places like Washington, DC’s Ford Theater.

But more than ever before consumers are using brands to define themselves—and that requires education. Starbucks is hoping a little education will help consumers think about the brand as they once did—a specialty coffee shop, not a blue chip conglomerate.

mags brand

The 1912 Pike Place address refers to the original Starbucks, which opened in 1971. Back then, Starbucks’ logo was all brown and its mermaid was naked. Today, it’s iconic logo is now green and its mermaid is demurely covered up.

You can now go to a Starbucks in Tibet and soon, for the first time ever, one in the land of espresso, Italy. Starbucks is now disrespected by that very same American Cafe culture that it more of less singlehandedly created. Third wave coffee—with its single origin coffees, pour overs and pretentious hipsters—has cast Starbucks as the face of evil giant corporate coffee, eater of small-town cafe profits, homogenizer of already pretty darn homogenous American coffee tastes. The new publication, which shares its name with a Starbucks roast, comes as the chain experiments with store formats.

Examples of what Starbucks is doing with 1912 Pike Place can be found everywhere and at every level. Within the coffee industry itself even. La Marzocco, manufacturer of some of the world’s most expensive espresso machines, recently published an in-depth history of PID, an industrial process recently adapted by high-end espresso makers. Don’t just tell customers your espresso machine is better; educate them on why it’s better.

Urban Outfitters’ blog covers content it feels fit its lifestyle. Airbnb recently launched Pineapple, a travel magazine that covers many of the cities where Airbnb rentals are most popular. Uber launched Arriving Now, its first-ever in-car magazine. Target offers Red Magazine, which educates on topics a Target customer would find useful.

So why the name change? Starbucks could publish as Starbucks, right? In a way, Starbucks suffers from too strong a brand. Using an aspirational brandless name is par for the vanity publication course: Red (Target), Tablespoon (General Mills), Green Label (Mountain Dew).

Today, nobody wants to self-identify as living a “Starbucks lifestyle.” But a “1912 Pike Place lifestyle?” That sounds local, small batch, artisinal, crafted.


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