Aroma-first thinking

What’s the first thing you notice when you approach a Starbucks store? Almost always, it’s the aroma. Even non-coffee drinkers love the smell of brewing coffee. It’s heady, rich, full-bodied, dark, suggestive. Aroma triggers memories more strong than any of the other senses, and it obviously plays a major role in attracting people to our stores.

Keeping that coffee aroma pure is no easy task. Because coffee beans have a bad tendency to absorb odors, we banned smoking in our stores years before it became a national trend. We ask our partners to refrain from using perfume and cologne. We won’t sell chemically flavored coffee beans. We won’t sell soup, sliced pastrami, or cooked food. We want you to smell coffee only. [Solving Starbucks Problems, Idea Sandbox]

However, since Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz said this, things have changed. Coffee comes pre-ground, “FlavorLock” packaged for a longer life and, in some regions, food is being cooked within the store. The smell of fresh coffee, which used to wrap itself around you, inviting you inside, isn’t as omnipresent as before. Where’s the aroma? Where’s the theatre of beans being ground daily in front of you?

There’s no use pretending, human beings are all but rational, and your products need to have a spark that makes us feel special – whether it’s the aroma wafting from your bakery or coffee shop, the handcrafted feel of your beauty products or the shine of your electronics.

What are the key emotional deciding factors for your product or service? Why did your customers cross your doorstep the first time?

No aroma, or no enticing factor, means that no new customers being led in, but it also means no emotional reminder for your previously loyal users. The business decisions you make shouldn’t steer you away from the source of that emotional tie. Your Aroma doesn’t have an ROI attached to it, but you need to take it in account when making decisions. Don’t compromise on it.

We love to believe in stories that match our worldview. We like to buy from our local cheese shop rather than buying it pre-packed from the supermarket, even if it involves going out of our way on the way home. It’s more “real” and we feel we’re helping local business. Sometimes, that worldview is a romanticised truth. We like to think of Starbucks as fair trade, even though most people order regular non fair trade coffee.

It makes us all fuzzy inside.

So how does your product make users feel fuzzy inside like the smell of fresh brewed coffee in the morning?

[Note: This post was salvaged from a project I started last year I never fully set live, so you may have spotted it before… Still as relevant as ever, though.]

Coffee machine cleaning tip from LifeHacker

Following my post about my new Senseo coffee machine, here’s a clever trick from Gina at LifeHacker for owners of similar coffee machines. Cleaning your coffee machine with a round of vinegar helps keep it free from bad stuff, and makes better coffee apparently.

Vinegar is natural and free of toxic residues. Vinegar is also a good solution because its acidic properties help to get rid of lime scale, mineral build ups, and any oils left over from brewing various beans. If you leave these things in your coffee maker you’ll not only risk breaking the coffee maker, or wearing it out, but you also risk tainting the taste of each pot of coffee you brew.

Gadget lurve: Coffee and little friendly robots

Recently, I’ve been falling in love with inanimate objects. I self-diagnosed I had a problem when I found myself talking to said objects while home alone. Either it’s cabin-fever from having spent the past few days in the house or I’m just losing my marbles. (Generous reward if marbles are returned)

First gadget I’m in love with is my new Senseo coffee machine. I bought it from Amazon about a month ago, and literally picked the cheapest single-serve coffee machine I could find.

In the past, my dilemma with making coffee at home was that, with Andrew not being a coffee drinker, it was difficult to find the right coffee maker. Normal filter coffee machines made too many cups at once, Bodum coffee makers were out of the question because of the amount of grinds at the bottom of my cup (some people disagree on this one, and it’s possible I’ve been doing it wrong all along, but I just don’t like the one-person Bodum), and we live in a small town with no Starbucks or coffee shop within any reasonable distance (thank god, or I’d be very broke).

So I thought for £45 (doh, it’s even cheaper now, it’s down to £35!), it wasn’t a great loss if it turned out to be rubbish. I only tend to have one cup of coffee a day, and only in the morning, so after settling myself down for a day working from home, I made my first cup. And I have to say, it makes great coffee, and takes no time at all.

Before seeing the pods, I was somewhat concerned of the waste I’d be causing, but it turns out that the pods are nothing more than a paper filter, wrapped around pre-ground coffee. While snooping around SingleServeCoffee, I heard about the Ecopad, which was presented as both a more environmentally-friendly solution and a way to use ANY coffee type you liked instead of the few that are offered in pod form. Promptly ordered two Ecopads, but have yet to use them, as I’m still using up the pre-made pods I ordered on CafeCo (Great site, but they forgot to include the little coffee bean stressball in my order!)

I haven’t tried very many coffee machines, but based on my experience, not only is this coffee very drinkable (and strong!), it’s also easy to make and the machine is easy to clean – Just press both cup size buttons at the same time and let it run a water cycle through. So highly recommended for the casual coffee drinkers who might like to cut down on the share of their salary they donate daily to Starbucks.

The second gadget I’m in lurve with these days is Asimo. I think I even had a dream where I was running in a field of flowers holding hands with my best friend Asimo… Ok maybe I should’ve kept that to myself. That’s ok, AWESOM-O-lovers will understand me. 😉

This one stretches beyond just Asimo, though. I’ve been talking to Keira, my little Nabaztag/tag bunny, and she’s been responding. She even sang me “Au pays de Candy” last weekend, and my family knows how much this means to me (put that video online and I’ll have to kill you!).

Mmmmkay, I’ve probably spent more time with non-sentient, robotic little beings this week than I have with real people, and it’s sending me loopy. So of course, I’ll communicate this via my blog, while listening to music via the Airport Express, then Twitter some work colleagues who are at SxSW and check the latest YouTube videos I’m subscribed to

Right, I think I need to get away from technology, go live in the woods, do some camping and hunt for my own food for a while.