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How do Capetonians feel about the green mermaid approaching our shores?

Arguably one of the most recognisable brands in the world, Starbucks is world-renowned for symbolising coffee for the masses and as of 2017, the brand has opened more than 25 000 branches across the globe.

During May, Taste Holdings announced that Starbucks would continue its venture into the South African market by launching a Cape Town-based store that would open its doors before the end of 2017. Currently there are four Starbucks stores operating in South Africa; two in Johannesburg and two in Pretoria.

How did Capetonians react to the news online?

Social media’s unique positioning provides insight into how people really feel as consumers choose to share unsolicited opinions in an open and honest way rather than being prompted to provide a specific response to a question.

The analysis of social media conversation provided by opinion mining company BrandsEye revealed an interesting disparity between the sentiment of conversation coming from Cape Town consumers versus that from Johannesburg. Sentiment data focussing on conversation about Starbucks during the period between 1 April and 31 July 2017 revealed that Capetonians are not entirely welcoming of the brand.

The chart below shows that the sentiment towards Starbucks from Cape Town consumers was almost equally split between positive and negative. In addition to this, consumers from Cape Town were almost 10 times more negative about Starbucks in comparison to our neighbours from the City of Gold; the high volume of negative conversation was sparked by the announcement that Starbucks would be launched in Cape Town. The news was covered by numerous press sources and consumer opinions were largely expressed in the comments sections of these online articles as well as in the form of tweets.

Sentiment data from Cape Town & Johannesburg looking at conversation around Starbucks

Why the negativity?

Social data uncovered the insight that Capetonians feel an overwhelming sense of loyalty to their local coffee shops/roasteries.

Local is lekker

Negative conversation consisted of Capetonians urging others to see through the hype of personalised coffee cups, Instagram likes and pumpkin spice to see the brand for what they believed it to be – a coffee chain driven by branding, churning out overpriced coffee of an average quality.

The words “local” and “support” were the most prominent themes in negative conversation from Cape Town consumers and appeared in 17.4% of the total volume of negative mentions over this period. Capetonians expressed their loyalty to supporting local coffee shops and vowed to stay away from ordering Starbucks, there were numerous instances of consumers stating that Cape Town already has a great specialty coffee scene and Starbucks was not needed. Consumers also went as far as naming their favourite coffee shops; examples included Rosetta Roastery, Origin Coffee Roasters and Truth Coffee.

This contrasted greatly with the fact that conversation from consumers of Johannesburg was overwhelmingly positive at 83.1%, and while campaign content activated by Starbucks played a fair role in attracting positive engagement with the brand, a large portion of mentions were made up of consumers simply expressing their love for the Starbucks and its offerings.

Conversation from Johannesburg consumers seemed to suggest that Starbucks is perceived to embody a sense of coolness and quality that Capetonians have yet see in the brand with as much enthusiasm.

In a city where third wave coffee culture is rapidly developing and supporting local businesses is becoming an increasingly popular way to stay on trend, it will be interesting to discover how the infamous green mermaid fits into Capetonian culture when she arrives on our shores. For now though, local remains lekker.

Opinion Data provided by BrandsEye.

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