retail news in context, analysis with attitude

• Starbucks, which has long eschewed traditional television advertising, reportedly has committed as much as $10 million to become a primary sponsor of “Morning Joe” on MSNBC. According to the New York Times, “along with several Starbucks graphics and mentions during each hour of the 6 to 9 a.m. program … the anchors and the coffee company may team up on charitable initiatives. And the program may be broadcast from Starbucks locations when it travels, as it did last year for the political conventions and this year for the inauguration.”

When the show began this morning, there was a new title card: “Morning Joe…brewed by Starbucks.”

The Times writes that “Howard Schultz, the chief executive of Starbucks, said in an interview that the deal indicated that ‘the rules of engagement in marketing and advertising have changed quite significantly.’ He called it an opportunity to ‘align ourselves with, in my view, one of the smartest morning shows that air on TV’.”

MNB got an email over the weekend from a reader pointing out that McDonald’s seems to be taking its McCafé program on the road…and has been parking a mobile McCafé in the parking lot of his office park. This comes as Don Thompson, president of McDonald's USA, said at the company’s annual meeting that McCafé sales have been “beyond expectations.”

• Starbucks has announced that it will no longer accept checks or traveler’s checks at its US locations, and now will just take cash and credit/debit cards.

KC's View:
First, about the Starbucks-Morning Joe deal…this makes perfect sense, since co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, along with regular panelists such as Willie Geist and Mike Barnicle, have been seen guzzling from Starbucks cups since the program debuted a few years ago. Even the name of the show suggests coffee.

(I’m with Schultz in his assessment of “Morning Joe,” by the way…it is the best morning show on the air, filled with interesting discussions and lively personalities. It’s always on in the background as I write MNB…and I almost always learn something. Sometimes the lesson comes from Pat Buchanan, and sometimes from Gene Robinson. Which is one of the things that makes “Morning Jo” so unique…there’s a lot more light than heat, and both sides of every issue get a fair hearing.)

All I know is this. I’d drink Starbucks for a lot less than $10 million. (In fact, I have.) And the MNB audience is at least as smart and sophisticated as the “Morning Joe” audience.

As far as the ban of checks and traveler’s checks goes, my first reaction was that this violated my rule about never doing anything that makes it harder for the shopper. But then I thought about it, and couldn’t remember the last time I’d even seen a traveler’s check or carried my checkbook with me. So maybe it is much ado about nothing.