Why Is Starbucks So Popular?

Posted in  Coffee  on  April 26, 2020 by  Urban Bean Coffee Team

Have you ever wondered why Starbucks is so popular? How do people manage to drink their coffee amidst long lines? And what’s the deal with those souvenir cups? After some contemplation, I came to the realization that it’s not just the quality of the coffee that has garnered Starbucks a massive following. There are deeper psychological and emotional factors at play that contribute to its worldwide popularity.

These were the questions a friend recently asked me. They wanted to know if Starbucks coffee is truly superior to other brands and why it seems to have an addictive quality.

After some contemplation, I came to the realization that it’s not just the quality of the coffee that has garnered Starbucks a massive following. There are deeper psychological and emotional factors at play that contribute to its worldwide popularity.

Why Is Starbucks So Popular?

1. Social Media

In 2008, Starbucks joined social media and has since dominated the industry. Starbucks’ presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest portrays coffee as something to share with friends and family.

The writers at SocialMediaToday provide a great overview of how Starbucks “crushes it on social media“.

For example, Starbucks regularly advertises one-on-one promotions, which in turn leads to exceptional social media engagement through likes, mentions, and comments.

Starbucks Instagram

Furthermore, Starbucks goes above and beyond in delivering outstanding customer service through their social media team. Despite their immense size as a company, they make it a priority to give individual attention to each customer, creating a personalized experience that keeps customers coming back time and time again.

Whether you are a fan of the Starbucks product line or not, their success on social networks is undeniable. As with any other aspect of the company, their attention to detail and customer-oriented messaging is what makes their social work one of the best in the business.

2. Specialty Beverages

Caramel Lattes, Frappuccinos, Pumpkin Spice Lattes…these sugary drinks have gained Starbucks a loyal customer base. Want to learn more about the many specialty drinks offered by Starbucks? Check out this article by the writers at Thrillist.

Pugkin spice latte meme

Many coffee connoisseurs complain that Starbucks coffee tastes burnt due to over-roasting. I must say that the sugary syrups, chocolate, and cream found in specialty drinks make the coffee taste much better. 

In fact, these drinks are so popular that other coffee chains had to introduce similar products to compete.

Pumpkin spice life gif

3. The Most Recognizable Cups in the World

Starbucks cups come in five sizes: Short, Tall, Grande, Venti, and Trenta.

Starbucks Cups Sizes

Three of the cup sizes have Italian names. This tradition began because Starbucks founder Howard Shulz was captivated by Italian coffee bars and wanted to instill a sense of belonging, of exclusivity. He wanted the Starbucks experience to be just as exclusive as the Disney experience.

 According to The Wall Street Journal:

Starbucks Tests a Greener Cup - The Wall Street Journal

This cup has a biodegradable liner and is being tested in stores in Seattle, New York, San Francisco, Vancouver, and London.

4. The Coffee, Duh

Starbucks Brand

Starbucks opened its first store in 1971 and began to expand beyond Seattle in 1987. Coffee connoisseurs were rare in the United States at the time, and espresso was rarely found outside Italian restaurants.

In the past, there was a lack of awareness regarding the distinction between espresso and drip coffee. In countless eateries and donut shops throughout the country, people would consume coffee that was weakly brewed in large quantities.

But a new generation of Americans grew up with Starbucks as the best alternative to the coffee of their grandparents’ generation. Many critics are not big fans of Starbucks over-roasted beans, but the coffee is good enough for most people.

5. The Iconic Brand

Starbucks Team

Starbucks has successfully positioned itself as a luxury brand that almost everyone can afford.

With its Italian names, attractive decor, and comparatively high prices, Starbucks ensures that its products are perceived as some kind of reward.

Girl with Starbucks gif

One 2017 study showed that our enjoyment of foods and drinks, and even our perception of their taste, is enhanced by branding and thoughtful packaging.

6. Mobile App

Starbucks App

In 2011, Starbucks launched the Starbucks® app, giving its customers the ability to order, pay for, and pick up their drinks without waiting in line or being delayed by indecisive colleagues.

The app was an outstanding success; by 2016, more than one-fifth of Starbucks transactions were made through the app.

According to MarketWatch:

Starbucks success according MarketWatch

7. Starbucks and Celebrities

In a Quora forum, people noticed an interesting fact: that celebrities often take pictures with coffee from Starbucks.

As you browse through any news site, you’ll find paparazzi shots of celebrities holding Starbucks drinks.

The infatuation of Hollywood with Starbucks transformed the coffee house into a symbol of status, one that even us ordinary folks can partake in. In essence, when we indulge in Starbucks, we can experience a taste of the celebrity lifestyle.

For the company, this accidental advertising whirlwind is a godsend for Starbucks’ brand image and advertising budget.

Indeed, that is precisely why the company is probably not paying celebrities to join their advertising campaigns: because they already do it for free.

8. As a “Third Place”

In Starbucks like at home

Starbucks’ rise has occurred in parallel with some major changes in how people live, work, and interact.

According to CNN Business:

CNN about Starbucks

City planners speak of a “third place,” which is neither a home nor a job, but a neutral public space where people can meet on equal terms. Starbucks coffee shops have become a “third space,” and this is part of why customers keep coming back.

9. Personalized Names on Cups

The simple yet ingenious practice of writing customers’ names on their cups and announcing them loudly in the room has proven to be incredibly effective. This personalization creates a captivating experience and fosters a unique connection to the Starbucks brand. Naturally, Starbucks employees also have their share of these memorable moments.

Names on Starbucks cups meme

But even with occasional (and sometimes hilarious) flubs, the idea of writing names on cups sets Starbucks apart from other coffee houses.

10. Atmosphere

In addition to a variety of coffee drinks and food, Starbucks’ atmosphere is very comfortable.

By now, most customers know what to expect when they enter through Starbucks’ heavy glass doors.

The interior of a Starbucks in Los Angeles will not be much different from the interior of a Starbucks in Tokyo: rich warm colors, alternative music, organic-looking artwork, and baristas in green aprons abound. Everything in Starbucks’ interior, from the warm scent to the simple sofas, promotes comfort and familiarity. 

11. Over 87,000 Beverage Combinations (and Counting)

We knew Starbucks has a big menu, but 87,000 options?

Starbucks humor

In 2008, the company included this fact in full-page advertising campaigns in two national newspapers.

Starbucks spokeswoman Lisa Pass told the Wall Street Journal how they came up with this figure: “If you take all of our main drinks, multiply them by modifiers and settings, you will get more than 87,000 combinations.”

12. Customer Service

service in Starbucks gif

Have you ever come across a rude Starbucks barista? Chances are, you haven’t. They are known for their speed, efficiency, friendliness, and contagious energy. While it’s true that some people may get a bit frustrated when their name is misspelled, let’s give the baristas some understanding. After all, it’s quite a challenge to know the spelling of every name in the world, isn’t it?

13. Innovations

Fast Company chose Starbucks as one of the most innovative companies in 2018.

In recent years, the company has focused on changing its business model so that it is more beneficial to society.

One change includes a partnership with Feeding America. At the end of each day, Starbucks donates 100% of its remaining food to donate to local food banks. These efforts are expected to reduce the company’s food waste and provide 50 million meals per year by 2021.

Starbucks also pledged to hire 10,000 refugees and continues to open cafes to provide jobs and accelerate development in economically depressed cities across the United States. Current locations include Ferguson, Missouri; Baltimore, Maryland; and the Englewood area of Chicago, Illinois. 

It is not surprising that there are more than 30,000 Starbucks shops around the world: Starbucks’ variety of drinks, steady attention to detail, customer service, and willingness to innovate have created one of the most famous and valuable brands in the world with a market capitalization of more than 74 billion dollars.

14. Starbucks Stores

Starbucks stores

In addition to providing a good coffee and a cozy atmosphere, Starbucks cafes offer a huge variety of products: coffee beans, coffee makers, mugs, thermoses, and more. No wonder they have a huge customer base!

15. Tricky Marketing

Starbucks prides itself on being customer-oriented and a supporter of the community, but this doesn’t mean that the company lacks competitiveness or neglects advertising and the psychology behind driving sales. In fact, Starbucks strategically focuses on these aspects to enhance their business and increase their sales.

For example, Starbucks offers free cardboard sleeves so that your cup won’t be too hot to hold, but it also offers a polyurethane version with a beautiful Starbucks logo. The company knows that some customers will pay extra for a reusable, higher-quality sleeve. Additionally, the company knows that if a customer buys a reusable sleeve, they’ll have more incentive to return to the shop and purchase more coffee drinks.

Starbucks’ reusable cups have been sold in the company’s shops for a long time. By giving customers a 10-cent discount when they bring in these reusable cups for another drink, Starbucks knows that they will retain customers. Additionally, the Starbucks logo on these cups acts as free advertising when customers use the cup outside of the shops. 

16. Employee Health Insurance

As you may have heard, Starbucks offers its employees a generous package of benefits, including health care for employees who work 20 or more hours per week.

In fact, according to former CEO Howard Schulz, Starbucks spends $300 million annually on healthcare, which is even more than they spend on coffee beans.

17. Free Wi-Fi

Free Starbucks WiFi

As the Internet continues to revolutionize the way we work, an increasing number of individuals are embracing remote work. And what better way to combat the isolation that comes with it than spending a portion of the day working at a cafe? This is where Starbucks comes in, offering the perfect solution with their free Wi-Fi, which has become one of the secrets to their success.

However, according to one Quora user, public wifi is not very safe:

How safe is WiFi at Starbucks?

18. Company Social Responsibility

In terms of social responsibility, Starbucks has certainly has left its mark both locally and globally. 

For example, Starbucks has a history of supporting LGBT rights, from exposing their homophobic investors to turning their stores into safe spaces for LGBT customers.

In addition to LGBT issues, Starbucks advocates for the rights of refugees. In 2015, the company held began a charity event for Syrian refugees and migrants.

In 2017, the company announced that by 2022 it would hire 10,000 refugees in all the countries with which it does business.

This policy would join another similar Starbucks initiative: recruiting 10,000 military veterans. 

Such Starbucks activity not only benefits the world but also increases customer loyalty. 

19. The Best Place to Study and Work

Starbucks is one of the best places to study: you can choose from various types of cookies and muffins, make use of comfortable chairs and several outlets, and enjoy the quiet atmosphere.
Here is what one Quora user writes:

Why do students go to Starbucks to study instead of studying at home?

So encourage your fellow students to be more productive by studying at Starbucks!

20. Starbucks Donates Food

Starbucks Donates Food

As the company itself writes:

Starbucks FoodShare

In 2016, Starbucks also donated 100% of its remaining food to feed the hungry. Starbucks partnered with Feeding America to donate unsold dishes, such as sandwiches and salads, all because their baristas encouraged the company to do so.

21. Freshly Brewed Coffee

At Starbucks, you can always count on a fresh cup of coffee. Baristas diligently manage four batches of coffee beans simultaneously, ensuring that each batch is rotated at least every 15 minutes and never left to sit for more than 30 minutes. This commitment to freshness extends even after hours, as they discard any old beans and refuse to serve anything that doesn’t meet their high standards.

They also follow an established regimen for iced coffee, iced tea, and pastries to ensure that everything is served fresh.

22. Starbucks Barista Training

Starbucks Barista Training

Each employee goes through more than 30 hours of training on subjects ranging from Frappuccino technique to the origin of coffee beans, and everything in between.

Training sessions include first impressions and customer service, Starbucks experience, brewing and tasting, espresso bar basics, food and warming, drinks, cold drinks, growing and processing, preparing the drink, and roasting and packaging.

23. Round Tables

Starbucks' round tables

Starbucks’ little round solo tables are not just a cute design decision.

According to Food World News:

About Starbucks' round tables

24. Music

Starbucks’ music

Starbucks takes great care in curating their music selection. As you step into the coffee shop, you’ll be greeted by pleasant and unobtrusive tunes. Interestingly, the same song will be playing simultaneously in all Starbucks locations.

Even if customers are unaware that the music is the same across all Starbucks establishments, they still subconsciously notice the familiarity of the music and develop even greater loyalty for the company.

25. Mental Health

Starbucks cares about the mental health of its employees. 

According to Fast Company:

Starbucks and Mental Health

Starbucks History

Starbucks is perhaps the most famous coffee chain in the world. The company was founded relatively recently, in 1971, and it began its journey as a chain of coffee shops. The first store opened on March 30, 1971.

Pike Place Starbucks store

Three founders, Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl, and Gordon Bowker (an English teacher, a history teacher, and a writer, respectively), decided to start selling coffee beans and opened their first store in Pike Place Market, in Seattle.

For a long time, this was the only Starbucks store. But after ten years, there were five Starbucks stores, and the company also had its own factory. In addition to selling coffee in its stores, the company also supplied coffee beans to many coffee houses, bars, and restaurants.

In 1987, a turning point came in the history of Starbucks. Howard Schulz took ownership of the company and began making it the Starbucks we know today.

A brief history of Howard Schultz

Schulz worked at Starbucks for several years as director of retail operations and marketing, but was unable to fulfill his dream of creating a coffee shop network based on the company. He left Starbucks and founded the Il Giornale coffee shop chain. 

In 1987, he returned to Starbucks and, finding investors, bought the company. Having bought Starbucks, he combined the chain with Il Giornale. Such an alliance turned out to be unusually successful and under his leadership, the Starbucks coffee chain managed to conquer the whole world.

Starbucks got its name from one of the heroes of the novel Moby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville. Starbuck is the name of the chief mate on the whaling ship Pequod that chased Moby-Dick.

Originally, the company was going to be named Pequod after the ship, but this name was rejected.

Then the founders, according to one version of the company’s history, began to search for a suitable name, paying attention to the fact that it should reflect the local spirit of their native Seattle. According to legend, one name under consideration was “Starbo,” the name of a mining town nearby.

But the founders did not give up the idea of using the name from the novel, and because “Starbo” and “Starbuck” are similar, they chose to name the company “Starbucks.”

But perhaps the most memorable element of the Starbucks brand is its logo.

The two-tailed mermaid, or siren, found on an old engraving from the sixteenth century, migrated to the Starbucks emblem and, although slightly changed, has remained there through today, continuing the nautical theme of the company.

In 1987, when Schulz bought Starbucks, the logo changed, combining the logos of Starbucks and Il Giornale. It was at this point that the logo got its characteristic features: a mermaid, a green circle, and stars. The mermaid was also modernized.

In 1992 and 2011, the logo changed again, but customers can still recognize hints of the old logos in the new designs.

Today, Starbucks today is not just about coffee, desserts, and snacks. The company also deals with books, cinema, and music. There is even a special Starbucks division, Starbucks Entertainment, dedicated to these endeavors. 

Starbucks’ approximately 18,000 coffee houses can be found in more than 50 countries around the world. The company is still headquartered in Seattle, Washington.

Here’s a fun Starbucks story:

At the MacWorld 2007 conference, Steve Jobs used a call to Starbucks to showcase the first iPhone and play a little joke with the audience. To show how iPhone owners could use Google Maps on the device, Jobs determined his current location, then found the nearest Starbucks and called it. The audience froze in anticipation. At last, Jobs’ call was answered and with a serious look, he said:

But then Jobs apologized and told the Starbucks shop that he’d made a mistake. Only the long-awaited iPhone was able to console the conference’s disappointed guests.


What are Starbucks’ weaknesses?

Like any company, Starbucks has its drawbacks. The most important are:

  1. High price

While Starbucks’ higher prices create a perception of luxury and foster brand loyalty, it’s important to acknowledge that these hefty price tags can deter some potential customers from even giving their coffee a try.

Although Starbucks’ ethical values ​​may be attractive, some people simply cannot spend that much money on a cup of coffee.

  1. Lack of unique products

Although Starbucks may be known for its frappuccinos, pumpkin spice lattes, and large chocolate chip cookies, they certainly don’t have the most unique range of goods. Many other coffee houses provide similar products and lose out on customers only because Starbucks is very famous.

Why is Starbucks so addictive?

Starbucks products alone are not addictive. Yes, the caffeine in their coffee may be addictive for some, but the true reason so many are addicted to Starbucks is because of its unique atmosphere and brand. 

Is Starbucks coffee high-quality?

Starbucks coffee is certainly not the highest quality you can get, particularly because it’s difficult to distribute and store the best coffee beans across such a large network of shops, I but nevertheless, Starbucks coffee is quite decent, and many people enjoy it.


After researching and writing this article, I certainly understand why so many people are addicted to Starbucks, and how big a role this company plays in our world. After all, I am sure that there are a large number of people who can not imagine a day without going to their favorite Starbucks coffee shop.

I hope this article was very informative for you. If you have any questions or suggestions, you can always leave a comment and one of the Urban Bean Coffee team members will reply.

About the Author

Urban Bean Coffee Team

Coffee is part of the lives of everyone on the Urban Bean Coffee team. We are a group of professional baristas, coffee bean roasters, and coffee machine repairers. Coffee has connected us, and together we strive to provide the best information to our readers. Our responsibility is to provide advice on any and all coffee-related issues. And we know that to do this we must be experts in this field. The coffee consumption culture has changed dramatically over several centuries. New brewing methods, bean quality control methods, roasting methods, and much more have appeared. We are sure that coffee will change further, and we want to be involved in changing it for the better.

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