As someone that is still very new to the specialty coffee world, I will admit that I was recently of the naive mindset that is (arguably) shared by the masses when it comes to quality coffee, and am attempting to throw in my 2 cents on the topic in the following.
I believe we can credit Sbux with educating the masses to some degree with their limited menu of specialty coffee products. Thanks to them, many Americans know what a latte is and could probably even name a few other espresso-based beverages. However, I don't believe the masses are yet at the point in their education and understanding of coffee where they discriminate much between options, and when in doubt, go with the brand name they feel they can trust from experience. My contention is that people are creatures of habit and find familiarity comforting, and this applies to buying coffee in much the same way as the concept applies to spending time with close friends. Undoubtedly, marketing and the powerful position of being the single national chain in the US have had a lot to do with getting people to create/maintain the habit of frequenting their shops.
What I'm trying to say is that education is the missing link. If most people knew of some of the nuances that are commonplace discussion items in the BX forum, I'm willing to wager that they would frown on the corporate coffee establishments because they would know that quality is not their focus as evidenced by their superautomatic machines, their having to close many shops due to the oversaturation of different locations, their stores' lack of soul and passion for delivering the best possible products, etc.
The question then becomes, how best to educate the coffee-loving masses who opt for a cup of their familiar Dunkin Donuts, Sbux, or Caribou Coffee instead of their friendly neighborhood independent shop?