By Emily Lacy (@emstheticket)
Despite what the movies might feed you (hello, childhood full of Disney!), if you’ve been part of a romantic duo that lasted beyond the initial hormonal flash in the pan, you know the truth about long-term, serious relationships: they take work.
The beginning of every new relationship is exciting, filled with new discoveries and adorable quirks. Even the laugh-snort is cute in the beginning, but eventually things calm down. We are human beings, and we crave stability and comfort. If you really like a person and the two of you have built up a base of happy, consistently good times together, they inevitably become part of your own personal ritual. Here’s where things start to get tricky. Because as much as we crave consistency, want the familiar, and become wary or annoyed at the thought of surprise, the routine gets stale.
What are we to do once the rollercoaster gives way to the lazy river? If you really want to know how to make it work, stop asking your best friend and ask Howard Schultz instead.
My relationship with Starbucks began fast and furious. There was so much to try, and it was a reliably great part of my day; thus, delight became routine and like so many others before me, I fell into a comfortable long-term relationship with Starbucks. It knows what I like and it gives it to me. In fact, Starbucks and I are coming up on our six-year anniversary. But that routinely happy, warm feeling isn’t the only reason the relationship isn’t waning. Routine on its own is not enough. A successful long-term relationship with a brand embodies a combination of the ritual and the unexpected.
During the year I wore the green apron, things got a little slow in the store from time to time. It was during these times that my shift manager Rosie would say, “Let’s try something new.” We’d brew a French press of a new coffee, grab a few pastries, and do experimental pairings. It was an unexpected delight during a time I could have been sipping my usual. If you happen to be in the mood for something new, Starbucks offers the same opportunities for exploration to its customers that it offers to its employees. In all the years I’ve known the brand, I am always impressed with the way they’ve been able to constantly make new something as simple and habitual as coffee.
Recently, Starbucks offered me a taste of a new fruity line of beverages, Starbucks Refreshers, which employ the energy of green, unroasted coffee beans through Green Coffee Extract. My reaction: “I didn’t even know you could do that.” In a long-term relationship, could you hope for a better reaction? Now, I’m not really into that sort of thing, but just knowing it’s there and that I can try it if I want is exciting.
This morning, when I had a few extra minutes and felt adventurous, I was given a cup of one of their Reserve coffees brewed in a machine called the Clover. Leave it to Starbucks to introduce me to new brewing technology after years of the same. It’s an amazing cup of coffee, rich, smooth, deep and loaded with caffeine. It added a completely new dimension to my relationship with coffee, and with Starbucks. I’ll have it again, maybe even tomorrow.
Great brands consistently deliver on the experience and values you’ve always loved them for, but they also work every single day to win you over, all over again. I crave my routine and the familiarity Starbucks offers me each morning—nine times out of 10, I’ll order my usual and walk away satisfied. But that blend of the routine and the new, of consistency and the occasional surprise, the feeling that they genuinely want to keep me around and will put in the work needed to make our relationship interesting, is the reason I’m in it for the long haul.
Images courtesy of Starbucks and NY Times.