Starbucks Embraces the Basic

As far as seasonal branding goes, autumn runs the show. Wednesday marked the first day of fall and instantly everything is covered in orange accents and wrapped up in pumpkin spice packaging. This season has become associated with a pop culture term, “basic.” Meaning, anyone (typically millennial girls) who like pumpkin spice flavored anything, Ugg boots, North Face jackets and apple/pumpkin picking are “basic.” Initially, being called, “basic” was a lowbrow insult; but now that brands are embracing the “basic,” it’s just a continuation of what it means to actually be, “basic.” Basic isn’t lowbrow anymore, it’s a lifestyle; and it’s selling a helluva lot of coffee.

Here’s a breakdown of how Starbucks has become the bourgeoisie of basic:

Drink Recipes

Arguably, the decade-long, mainstream success of the Pumpkin Spice Latte is what started the entire “basic” trend. The latte even has a hashtag! #PSL saw 329,238 posts on Instagram. On the first day of fall and for the first time in four years, Starbucks released a new fall recipe to add to the basic-hysteria: introducing, the #ToastedGrahamLatte (earning over 1,000 contributing posts on Instagram). Now, introducing something new to the basics is risky business; after all, the only change they typically like is the foliage. But what’s impressive is the buzz the new drink recipe has created, for better or for worse.


Generally, Starbucks employee uniforms feature black or white shirts, black pants and green, branded aprons. However, to commemorate the first day of fall and its basic glory, many Starbucks locations nationwide wore flannel shirts instead of their usual uniform. This could be a nod to Seattle (Starbucks’ home base) and 90s alternative grunge (currently making a “cool kid” comeback) or it could just be that flannel is totally basic.

Limited Edition Cups

The somewhat loud design of the fall cups is reminiscent of a high school girl’s notebook doodles. It features black line drawings with orange and mustard accents illustrating pumpkins, pinecones, acorns, leaves and firewood aflame, with a spattering of polka dots. Trés basic.

App Update

Nothing says “new” more than updates to an often-complained-about app. On the first day of fall, Starbucks added the “mobile ordering,” feature to their app. Subscribers can order in advance, pay through their phones and pick up their morning java from the beverage counter, with their name on it, ready to go, without waiting in line. Sounds like a basic dream, if you ask me.

By providing a unique customer experience and embracing the basic, Starbucks has layered their brand with elements of pop culture, cementing itself as a part of daily American life. And they’re doing a damn good job, basically.

Can You Think of Other Brands that Have Sucessfully Embraced Pop Culture? Let us Know What You Think in the Comments!