Dumb Starbucks Shut Down Amidst Internet Accolades

Dumb Starbucks may already be gone, but clearly it’s not forgotten. Not only that, but the owner of Dumb Starbucks, which was set up as a “parody shop”, Nathan Fielder, is said to have committed to opening another Dumb Starbucks in Brooklyn.

The original Dumb Starbucks, revealed to be a publicity stunt, opened on Friday, and was quickly shut down. Not by Starbucks’ legal team (although apparently Dumb Starbucks and Fielder did hear from them), but by the Los Angeles County Health Department.

dumb starbucks


By Sunday the place was packed with people wanting a look at the parody of Starbucks, which had its own Dumb menu, and even its own parody music CDs.

dumb starbucks menu

On Monday (yesterday) Fielder came clean during a press conference. Fielder, whose show on Comedy Central, “Nathan for You”, had a permit to film – but no health permit for the Dumb Starbucks – said that he plans to expand the Dumb Starbucks footprint, and will be opening a Dumb Starbucks in Brooklyn, New York.

On the same day, the real Starbucks issued the following statement:

We are obviously aware of the Dumb Starbucks location in Los Feliz. It is not affiliated with Starbucks. We are evaluating our next step. While we appreciate the humor of the store, they cannot use our name. It is a protected trademark

Fielder says that he is relying on the “parody” exception to trademark infringement, and that it is a work of art. In fact a sign inside the Dumb Starbucks told patrons that it was a “work of parody art.”

We think that what he is really relying on is the publicity, and on people talking about Dumb Starbucks on social media to generate buzz.

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The Dumb Starbucks twitter account has already garnered over 13,000 followers, and scores of Twitter accounts are talking about Dumb Starbucks, with dozens of new Tweets about Dumb Starbucks being added every minute at the time of this writing.

dumb starbucks twitter

dumb starbucks on twitter

Moreover, over a million sites are talking about Dumb Starbucks, including nearly 150,000 news sites.

As publicity stunts go, this was almost certainly a calculated risk on the part of Fielder and Comedy Central. They certainly had to know that Starbucks would come after them, and the ensuing fight (or, indeed, even if they rolled over) would catapult them into the social media sphere.

Observes Jessica Harris, Social Media Strategist with Amazon Advertising (no relation to the book retailer), “As Nathan Fielder has shown us previously with his text message stunts, such as ‘2 Grams for $40,’ he has a remarkable ability to use social media to turn simple concepts into much bigger campaigns, which live on in the digital space. I still see the screenshots of his text message stunts being shared on Facebook, Tumblr and Pinterest.”


“Fielder clearly knows that shock + humor = social media hit, and is brilliantly leveraging this to, in a way, geurilla market himself and his work. The potential for this kind of advertising success through social media is the precise reason why so many brands are ditching their big ad budgets in favor of lower-cost, more-effective, and more precisely targeted digital campaigns,” adds Harris.

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