It started in 2010–2011 with a rally cry that brands needed to become “media companies/publishers” in order to survive — “Red Bull is now a media company that happens to sell drinks.” Let’s get one thing straight — Red Bull never has been, nor ever will be, a media company. And, no, Red Bull Media House doesn’t count. Red Bull is a beverage company. End of story. Thankfully, most brands quickly realized that acting like a publisher was foolish and quite difficult, and for the most part, the mindset died.
Fast-forward 6 years. A lot can, and did, change. Unfortunately, one of those changes was the evolution of moving from a “media company” to now becoming a “tech company.” Just as declaring Red Bull a “media company” was shortsighted, so is this new craze of trying incredibly way too hard to associate your brand with technology.
The latest culprit is Starbucks, who recently proclaimed that they are now a “tech company” that sells coffee. Sorry, but no. Starbucks is not a technology company. Starbucks sells coffee. That’s all they do. That’s how they make money. That’s how they pay employees. Is Starbucks doing an incredible job integrating technology into their business? Absolutely. They are doing a masterful job adapting to emerging consumer trends and utilizing technology to enhance their business. But there’s a massive difference between using technology — which every company should be doing, and being a technology company.
Anything that shifts your mindset away from your core product — in this case, coffee — is a dangerous path. Adjusting your mindset and setting expectations that one must adapt with changing trends and consumer behavior — in this case, mobile — is smart. It’s also Business 101, but marketers seem to be fans of shining basic business principles into new, revolutionary ways of thinking simply by adding ‘e’ or ‘social’. But, that’s a different problem for a different day.
At the end of the day, we need to stop running away from what truly drives our businesses. So stop thinking like a technology company and instead focus on technology can enhance your core product.