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Starbucks Takes Via National

CEO Howard Schultz led the charge for the national rollout of Starbucks' new instant coffee, Via, yesterday -- except that he did it Friday in a media conference call that was embargoed until Monday, Melissa Allison reports in her "Coffee City" blog. "We're sitting on perhaps the biggest opportunity our company has ever had," Schultz enthused.

In addition to a national TV campaign, customers who take a "taste challenge" from Oct. 2 to 5, comparing brewed coffee to Via will get a free cup of brewed coffee and $1 toward a Via purchase.

Single-serve packets are available at Starbucks in the U.S. and Canada, Costco, Target, REI and on United Airlines. Grocery stores will begin to carry it next year. Without revealing specifics, Shultz says that sales have exceeded the company's expectations in the three test markets -- Seattle, Chicago and London.

Stephanie Startz, meanwhile, writes in Brandchannel that the four "delightfully nonsensical," 15-second spots for Via that ran on "Saturday Night Live" last week were funnier than the show.

But, she warns, "Via's real harm may come as a brand-image boondoggle. Starbucks risks wasting time and resources focusing on the wrong thing." It should be fixing the ailing flagship brand instead, she suggests.



Read the whole story at Seattle Times, Brandchannel »

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