That Ikea, Starbucks love-hate thing.

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A recent discussion in my Brand Equity Management class reminded me of an obvious yet sometimes overlooked truth. Certain brands can be as polarizing as people. A lot of that, I think, stems from the degree and appeal of brand culture.

Cases in point: Ikea and Starbucks.

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The “yellow brick road” of Ikea

Ikea isn’t just a store. It’s an inspiration showroom. The three-step shopping process, from design possibility presentation to smaller purchase temptation to commitment-pieces greeting customers in the warehouse, is very customer-centered. Throw in quintessential Ikea rulers/pencils, yellow carts, pathway-guiding arrows, and quirky products that comprise the store experience, and I’m hooked. Not to mention the DIY at-home assembly.

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Of course, the things that appeal to me don’t appeal to everyone. I’m sure you’ve either heard or said some of the following remarks:

I hate putting Ikea furniture together. The instructions are useless. The store is hard to navigate. Ikea furniture is cheap.

Like Ikea, Starbucks has its “haters.” I’ll admit, my past hesitation toward the brand probably came from not knowing what I was ordering- stand in line behind a regular whose order specifications are down to the milk percentage and number of flavor shots… It can get intimidating if you’re unfamiliar with the lingo.

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The identity that feeds into being a loyal Starbucks customer has grown on me, though. The simple thrill that comes from seeing your name written on a cup is one way the brand makes you feel special. Recently, I’ve added the Pittsburgh design from the You Are Here line to my own growing collection of mugs. The new line features abstract skylines of famous cities throughout North America, and each city mug is only sold in that city’s Starbucks stores. Again, the brand knows how to build consumer identity and loyalty.

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Part of the You Are Here line from Starbucks

What other brands do you think have a love-hate following?

-R

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