Updated: Will the Forbidden City Starbucks Get Fwoked?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007 10:09

One of the things I found myself always wondering was how did Starbucks manage to get inside the Forbidden City?

Don’t get me wrong, I love their latte’s!

However, putting a Starbucks store inside one of China’s most culturally significant sites (a UNESCO World Heritage Site no less) was always something I was shocked by.. and I was not the only one that share that feeling.

Today though, we stumbled upon the BBC Monitoring Story China’s CCTV anchorman reignites debate over Forbidden City Starbucks, and the blog of anchor man Rui Chenggang that is the source for the article.

As the title suggest, for Starbucks, this is actually not a new controversy… however, the means by which the public debate has started and the potential for this to grow are.

With reportedly thousands of angry netizens coming out to support Mr. Rui’s suggestion (I could only find 7 pages of angry netizen comments) that Starbucks has no place in the Forbidden city, it may only be a matter of time before Starbucks may need to look for a new piece of real estate.


A few things to note:
1) Starbucks only recently purchased their Beijing stores back from Meida, and thus may not have been the primary driver of that decision
2) Someone invited Starbucks within the walls of the forbidden city, someone else stamped the lease, and someone else approved all the permits necessary to open the store.
3) Starbucks got 6-7 years worth of life out of that store, and have pulled out in a way that should be seen in a good light by the general public

The Chinese culture has been around for thousand of year, and a single coffee shop in the middle of the Forbidden City will not unwind that. however there is a more general concern brewing (pun intended) that the culture is under attack by foreign companies.

Faced with experience the same PR nightmare Dell and P&G experienced last year, I am sure the folks at Starbucks (who only recently acquired the full stake from their previous agent) will be in need of a few espressos.

Brands should take extra care when designing advertisements, slogans, names, and locations as consumers in China have proven time and time again that they are willing to push back.

To read more, go to Reuters, Houston Chronicle, or 96 others

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One Response to “Updated: Will the Forbidden City Starbucks Get Fwoked?”

  1. Victor says:

    January 18th, 2007 at 1:01 am

    Well if you want coffee at the Forbidden City, what are you going to do. Would you prefer a “Chinese” coffee shop? I’m not a fan of Fourbucks, but at least I can get overpriced coffee from the source itself. I heard “星巴克” had to pay 500,000 RMB in fines recently. Here’s the link to the Shanghaiist Article.