A “Dumb Starbacks” coffee shop opened in Los Angeles on the 7th February, using Starbucks’s logo on it’s cups (with the added word “dumb” – see picture) and basically copying all the other physical aspects of the famous coffee brand establishments. The coffee was given out for free, creating long queues, with the menu offering coffees of various tastes, ranging from “horrible” to “bitter”, one being called “dumb white chocolate mocha”. Dumb Starbacks’s facebook and twitter pages became popular within hours.
For a few days, the motive behind this move was unknown, until last week the owner of the parody coffee shop has been revealed to be the Canadian TV comedy persona, Nathan Fielder. His plans were to open a second outlet in Brooklyn, NY. However, because of a missing public health permit, the L.A. store has been closed already, diminishing the chance for this plan. In any way, Fielder will be using some video footage taken taken in the coffee shop as part of his Comedy Central show “Nathan For You”.
Starbucks’s reaction was in my opinion appropriate to this situation: “We are evaluating next steps and while we appreciate the humour, they cannot use our name, which is a protected trademark”, said their spokesperson. The laid-back approach is contrasted of what could have been a trial over copyright infringement (although Fielder claims that adding the word “dumb” to the name makes it an obvious parody, excepting it from the copyright law, under the law known as ‘fair use’ – Fielder even called his establishment an ‘art gallery’, where the ‘coffee’ you’re buying is considered art). Starbucks’s approach will definitely be seen positively by the public. Furthermore, the comedian behind the stunt generated worldwide publicity not only for Starbucks (no such thing as bad publicity?), but even more for his upcoming show, first creating a buzz when the author was unknown, and then being talked about in traditional and social media. After the shop was closed, people were lining up only to get the cups. To sum up, it worked.