Planning's very own Clover Machines

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by: Iqbal Mohammed

WIRED 16.08 has an article about Starbuck’s great hope – a fancy new coffee machine that has wowed coffee connoisseurs eveywhere.

So amazed was Starbucks by the Clover Machine that they bought the company that makes them – the Coffee Equipment Company – and promptly stopped selling the machines, so that no one else can have them.

Instead, if you want to enjoy a cup of Clover coffee, you’ll have to head across to a nearby Starbucks.

The Clover Machine has some serious following – apparently long queues awaited it wherever it was introduced, and self-described Cloveristas abound. It is the first coffeemaker that lets the user programme three key variables: dose, water temperate and brew time. The result according to Howard Schulz is "the best cup of brewed coffee I have ever tasted."

But for all the hoopla and hope surrounding it, over at the Starbucks’ counter the Clover Machine has drawn a skeptical response and – at least to the writer’s taste buds – apparently failed to deliver on its promise.

The problem for Starbucks lies not with the machine, but with the beans. "The machine is only as good as the beans you put in it." And Starbucks – a mass producer – is unable to consistently deliver fresh beans of coffee to the consumer.

Reading about the Clover Machine saga reminded me of a post Northern Planner wrote recently about agencies’ proprietary brand planning models.

I haven’t read the Jeremy Bullmore column referred to in the post, but I do think that brand planning models are the bright shiny objects that agencies spent inordinate amounts of time polishing and showing off – fancy tools that work perfectly under lab conditions, only to fall short of their promises in real life. A lot like Starbucks’ overhyped Clover Machines.

The lesson for agencies and us planners is simply this – if one doesn’t have the right beans, no coffee machine in the world can help churn out gourmet coffee.

[Original pic by tonx]

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