Starbucks Trenta – Can your experience get “too big?”

I knew “Trenta” was coming  but I continue to be amazed at the media storm and second guessing Starbucks receives.  In case you missed it, Starbucks launched their new 31oz drink size option (named Trenta) in 14 states this week including Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Hawaii and Arizona and will add California to the Trenta list on Feb 1

As the author of The Starbucks Experience, I field calls from outlets like the BBC who want to know if you can make an experience “too big.”  Apparently, some health experts have suggested that Trenta contains a volume of fluid greater than the human stomach can hold.  You would think  3o plus oz cold beverages had never been tried before when you listen to commentators or answer some of these media skeptics.

One need only look to the convenience store chain 7-11 to appreciate demand.  My corner 7-11 offers the Big Gulp fountain drink brand which is a 32 US fl oz (0.95 l)  and also the following larger variants:

44 US fl oz (1.3 l) Super Big Gulp

64 US fl oz (1.9 l) Double Gulp

128 US fl oz (3.8 l) Team Gulp

Right or wrong, consumers like larger, faster, and more!

Here are a few other things to know about the Trenta and to think about as you design customer experiences:

While sites like Business Review USA comment on Starbucks’ naming decision by noting “the massive global coffee shop chain has unveiled another silly, foreign-named cup size to add to its fleet,”   I would argue that unique product names (particularly those that fit into a themed or branded experience) often become a “language” which reinforces brand identity). For example, I have and “Ieverything” – Ipod, Ipad etc). While these naming efforts can be risky, in my opinion, it would have been “silly” if Starbucks had not followed the Italian naming theme.

One last consideration, many of the people who are most critical of this “size design expansion” have never been through the exacting process of customer listening, concept design, test-maketing and vetting that a product-delivery option like Trenta has to undergo.  They also will not feel the pain of a product sizing failure.

I doubt I will buy Trenta – since it is only available for iced drinks – and I like my coffee hot.   However, I do know that the size-offering came about as a result of consumer demand!  In the end, that demand will either sustain the pricing option or the Trenta size will evaporate.

What do you think, can your product or service experience get “too big?”

Are your product and service re-designs guided by the voice of your customer? and

Can you “stomach” all the cynics to do what you think fits the wants, needs and desires of your consumer?

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

1 Comment

  1. Virtual Agent on February 2, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    I honestly believe it’s quite too much. The fact that it’s available makes it more accessible and easier for people to take their health for granted. Of course, we should be responsible for our purchasing choices, but it would help a great deal if the company would think more of the good of their customers than theirs.

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