Second Cup is Second Best

[Cache – #36]

Pretty much any brand name can be distorted into a derogatory (and often accurate) nickname. KFC alone has Kentucky Fried Pigeon, Kentucky Ducky and Dirty Bird. Jet Blue became JetFU after that flight attendant’s intercom tirade and two-fisted escape down the emergency slide.

My message to brands is simply to be sharp – to be on top of your game, so no one will call you something unfortunate (I’ll be the first to call today’s missive The Friday Afternoon Blog). Yes, you need to be reasonably cautious when developing a new name: ask me about a spa client who decided against the name Spa Toi (ladies, you will get the negative meaning before the guys do). But there is no point in over thinking the ways in which your name can be twisted, because your customers’ creativity will always outdo you.

For example, I have long called Second Cup Second Best. Indeed I tried my best to write this post from an actual Second Cup location, but was thwarted by yet another indication of the chain’s also-ran status. You see, I need this thing called “electricity” to run my laptop, and the Second Cup location at the corner of King and Jarvis in downtown Toronto had only one outlet, and it was in use.

(To be fair, there was a second outlet crammed in between the fireplace and the window, but a breastfeeding mother and product displays made access impossible. The manager helpfully suggested I string my power cord through the shelves to a counter on the other side. It wouldn’t have worked). And so I sit at Starbucks, where they have four power outlets, all accessible, as well as free and easy access to this thing called “the Internet.”

Second Cup’s short-sighted policy thereto is the original inspiration for this post. I tried to log on to their wifi when in a store last week. Up pops a message asking me to answer some personal questions in return for connectivity. I would like to tell you the precise content of that message, but recall that I am sitting in Starbucks while Second Cup straightens out its relationship with electricity, and thus cannot do a fact-check. What I do recall from Second Cup’s message is wording like: “We’d like to ask you some questions in return for an Internet connection. Sound fair?”

To me, it did not sound fair at all. In fact it sounded rude, intrusive and lame. I would have thought that being a paying customer was reason enough to give me wifi. Here at Starbucks, anyone can walk in, make a purchase, and with a mere two clicks, be online – for free, for as long as they want. In contrast to Second Cup, Starbucks has figured out the value proposition of free Internet: on the homepage that surfers start at, Bell gets credit for being the ISP, and stories from their website are displayed, driving traffic there; Starbucks’ Facebook feed is displayed, creating awareness and driving traffic there too; a large Flash window promotes Starbucks’ beverages.

Why else is Second Cup Second Best? The coffee tastes weak and bitter, their staff is not sufficiently skilled and speedy at making espresso-based drinks, their stores feel too much mom-and-pop, much of their food (sandwiches especially) is inedible.

Let’s be clear: Starbucks is far from perfect. I have tiraded in the past about their dirty stores and sloppy service: I recently heard them referred to as Charbucks, in reference to coffee that many find burnt and too strong (not me). And many people still think of them as The Evil Empire – a moniker attached to many market leaders, from the New York Yankees – – and even to Apple –

But they’re better than Second Cup, by a long shot.


Best brand names of the week!


Previous lists:

Friday August 17


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