The tweet in question was from @MyStarbucksIdea, a marketing representative of Starbucks, which read, “Sbux VIA was an idea from a customer almost 20 years ago.” The message was posted at 8:32 AM HST (11:32 PST) on March 18th.
The message was not a reply to an inquiry from another @MyStarbucksIdea follower, just a little tidbit of random information broadcast to the world at-large. “That’s odd,” I thought, as I seemed to vaguely recall a newspaper article that had a very different account of how the instant coffee idea came into being.
Thankfully counterbalancing Twitter’s instant messaging power, we have Google, which never forgets the past.
So a few minutes later, I had found the article that gives the seemingly genuine and charming recollection of Mrs. Heather Valencia, wife of the deceased Starbucks R&D Director Don Valencia who developed the concept:
Heather Valencia remembers when her husband, Don, introduced decent instant coffee to Starbucks. It was in the late 1980s, when Don was CEO of a biomedical firm he’d started in Sacramento. He used freeze-drying equipment from his business to make instant coffee for backpacking trips and as a Christmas gift for Heather’s parents.
After Heather introduced him to Starbucks coffee, which she considered “the best beans in the world” after working at a University of Washington coffee bar, the couple brought some by the Starbucks’ store in the Pike Place Market.
They passed it along to CEO Howard Schultz, who hired Valencia to run Starbucks research and development until he retired in 1999.
Valencia developed a concentrate that Starbucks uses in its Frappuccinos and ice cream.
Shortly before Valencia died of cancer in late 2007, Schultz visited him in the hospital and told him the company was finally going to roll out his instant coffee, “Stardust.”
Hey, that’s a nice story! Why twist it?
Implied marketing message of the tweet:
Random Starbucks fan suggests that the company should develop instant coffee, so that she or her may personally enjoy it elsewhere.
Wife brings coffee to husband that tinkers with industrial freeze drying equipment who puts the two together for consideration of a coffee company boss.
The phrase, “Sbux VIA was an idea from a customer,” not only simplifies, but coincidentally changes history in support of Howard Schultz’s rationale for introducing the coffee in their initial announcement and press:
“…regardless of our ubiquity, that customers continue to tell us they want more Starbucks, and more ways and opportunities to enjoy it.”
About a half hour later, the message was still bothering me, so I decided to reply back:
@MyStarbucksIdea Seattle Times claims VIA idea was introduced by R&D Dir. Don Valencia, not a customer http://tinyurl.com/beefwc #VIA
One day later, the response:
@HIflyer When Don was a customer he introduced Howard to the first stages of Via, then Howard hired him to head up the R&D dept.
O.k., a little closer to reality, but then why not just say that in the first place?!?, as in:
“Our R&D Director was hired when he approached us with the idea for Via,” or
“A clever scientist developed Via because his wife loved Starbucks,” or
“Sbux named Via for Don Valencia, who developed the instant concept.”
Nope… none of those. One might argue that with only 140 characters to tweet your message to the world, sometimes the intent is lost.