Thursday, April 5, 2007

36 hours worth of Starbucks...

Thirty-six hours worth of Starbucks to complete this year's thesis, counting in the time I spent drafting the proposal, meeting with students, correcting drafts, meeting with students, finalizing drafts, meeting students, and then completing the grades. I'm not an avid coffee drinker, and that is very evident by the way my mom and sister laughs at the way I prepare coffee at home. They would blurt out after I offer them the coffee I proudly made, Kape ba 'to? Counting the number of hours I spent at Starbucks for work and leisure, made me realize how many cups of coffee I downed - but still I don't consider myself a coffee drinker.

One of the things I always enjoy whenever I'm in Starbucks, aside from the ambient music and cozy arrangement and atmosphere is staring at its numerous logos emblazoned innumerably across its establishment and merchandise. Whenever I'm with friends relaxing, and usually when it's the first time I go out with them at Starbucks, I always ask them if they knew what Starbuck's logo is all about. Sure it's a crowned lady, but what the held is she holding. I would be lucky if I could get an answer claiming she was a mermaid. Yup she is a mermaid! But a different kind of mermaid - a melusine, a two tailed mermaid (Image 1)

The melusine creature, is a unique form of the mermaid, and perhaps was imagined by sailors who were trying to figure out how to copulate with a mermaid. Of course, with two tails emulating the legs of a real lady, it wouldn't be a real puzzle where sailors would place their package in. It seems likely that Starbucks was utilizing this "sexual" symbol as part of their iconic image. Image 2 shows their early "cigar-band" logo featuring the melusine, which was obviously very similar to that 15th-century illustration. This was further developed into the more familiar stylized siren framed within the more attractive green of the present logo (Image 3). Starbucks didn't survive the censorship inquisition in the 1980's and had to give in to demands of the public who deemed the logo too sexually suggestive, indicating that it looks too much like a woman with open legs. The new and existing logo features a cropped out version of the original siren where any indication of the belly part is removed. Only the two fins remain to remind us that it is still a melusine. Sexual suggestion as marketing strategy. Well, some drinkers come to the point of craving for coffee the way they do to...

Anyway, one time while I was working alone in Starbucks, I decided to relax a bit and read articles from Men's Health magazine. And what do you know, an article about Starbucks coffee:

And I was drinking a Grande White Choco Mocha that time. Wow! 450 calories! That is equivalent to 40 minutes worth of indoor rowing, or 50 minutes of treadmill running. I've read somewhere that Starbucks coffee has more calories and caffeine than what we think, and somewhow, this formula makes us crave for more of it. Addictive behavior among its customers means continuous patronage. Continuous patronage means more business, more money.

Starbucks is everywhere! And sometimes, when I need to find a place to work or relax, I get irritated when the nearest Starbucks are jumpacked with people. People from all walks of life... I myself have to shell out a huge chunk of my daily salary to get a sip of their coffee... which leads me to wonder, what makes Starbucks so hard to resist, despite its expensiveness. I found this 18-minute video of History Professor Bryant Simon at the Taste3 Conference, where he presents a deconstruction on how he believes Starbucks works, and how our patronage of Starbucks reflects our culture. He discusses three aspects: the functional, emotional and expressive aspects of Starbucks. He also talks about the high caffeine content of Starbucks coffee (about twice other coffees), the emotional reasons why we buy (self-gifting, ordering language use and predictability) and the expressive aspects of Starbucks (being part of the performance, and showing our ability to afford the luxury of a fancy coffee):

Interesting... how Bryant's ideas not only is applicable to the American phenomenon, but seemingly relevant to the Philippine context also. The cross-cultural influence of Starbucks is truly astounding.

But, don't get the idea that I like Starbucks obssessively enough for me to blog about it. Usually I usually end up in Starbucks because I had no choice or my friends invite me to. But if I had the choice, I would always choose Coffee Beans and Tea Leaf's Chai Tea Latte over any coffee of frap that Starbucks offers. If I don't have the budget to pamper myself, a freshly brewed green tea at home would do.

References: Starbucks Wiki, Deadprogrammer's Cafe and Rohdesign Weblog

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