There are now over 28,000 Starbucks worldwide, churning out lattes, frappuccinos, macchiatos, flat whites, nitro cold brews, and practically every other incarnation of coffee imaginable to more than 3 trillion visitors every year. Starbucks has become a mainstay of American and international coffee culture, but not everyone is too happy about it, and some wonder how the chain could possibly have gained so much popularity.

Despite the prevalence and popularity of their shops, Starbucks isn’t exactly the creme de la creme of coffee – they don’t even roast in-house for Pete’s sake, and you definitely won’t be getting any latte art at the drive-thru window. Plenty of independent and artisan coffee shops exist that offer arguably better coffee, but why haven’t these gems of coffee purity been adopted by the masses?

How has a company selling arguably mediocre coffee risen through the ranks and become such a global phenomenon? Well, we have a few working theories.

1. Marketing

Starbucks has done a remarkable job of marketing themselves, regularly airing TV commercials, advertising on social media platforms, and making appearances around the Internet to become readily recognizable. Starbucks has also stuck to essentially the same branding since inception, using simple icons like their green mermaid to consistently market their products. Over the years, the steady appearance of Starbucks locations on every corner has meant you can find one easily in most major cities or on the road, cementing the brand in the minds of consumers.

2. Consistency

No matter which Starbucks you visit, you are going to get a consistent experience. Starbucks formulates its drinks in such a way that any barista at any location can make them, creating consistent recipes that make it easy to recreate the same flavors from anywhere. This same model works for countless fast-food chains like McDonald’s, Burger King, Jollibee, and so on. Consumers love being able to find the flavors they know and are accustomed to, which makes getting the same coffee drink in California as you can in New York comforting to lots of people. While some may still venture into local shops when they travel, trying to get the local coffee experience, the risk of not knowing exactly what you’ll get can steer more cautious travelers back toward chains.

3. Coffee for Coffee Haters

Though Starbucks does offer plenty of plain coffee drinks, their menu is also chock-full of beverages that taste only vaguely like coffee – or don’t include coffee at all. From creme frappuccinos to refreshers, customers have lots of options outside of coffee to get what feels like a luxury beverage and may even have a similar amount of caffeine. Starbucks works hard to cater to all its customers, providing options for coffee haters, kids, and even dogs, and it’s hard to argue with the popularity of a coffee shop that will give your dog a cup of whipped cream.

Do you love Starbucks, or are you committed to another coffee shop or brand?

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