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Starbucks Seeks to Stimulate Social Media Engagement

In its latest marketing campaign, Starbucks encourages tech-savvy coffee drinkers to disseminates its coffee manifestos — and their own — over social media.

The campaign is expected to float on the viral potential proffered by the brand's nearly 1.5 million Facebook fans and 185,000 Twitter followers.

The ads spout trite witticisms like "If your coffee isn’t perfect, we’ll make it over. If it's still not perfect, you must not be in a Starbucks." They will run in six major cities nationwide, in newspapers and outdoors. Users are encouraged to hunt the posters down and post photos of them on Twitter, for example.

Each print piece boasts a bold headline, printed across what appears to be a burlap coffee sack. The creative was put together by BBDO North America, part of Omnicom. Newspaper ads go on to describe how Starbucks selects only the best 3% of beans, and gives part-time workers health insurance, reports The New York Times.

Rationalizing the copy-heavy creative, Starbucks CMO Terry Davenport said, "Even if you cruise by and don't stop to read every word, the net impression is, 'Wow, Starbucks has a lot to say about coffee.'"

The Twitter photo contest component stemmed from watching what people already do on sites like Facebook and Twitter, according to VP-Brand, Content & Online Chris Bruzzo. Every year around Christmas, the company invites people to be the first to post photos of Starbucks shops decorated for the holidays; and on flickr, users have vied to publish images that include multiple stores in the same shot.

"It shows a level of connection to our brand that we wouldn’t have concocted on our own," Bruzzo stated.

Starbucks has other social media initiatives planned for this campaign, including a contest for Starbucks store employees to submit headlines for future ads and YouTube videos with coffee experts talking about Starbucks coffee.

Still, it is difficult to measure the effects of social media — a follower on Twitter does not necessarily translate to a daily Frappuccino drinker.

Mr. Bruzzo said Starbucks’ social media presence gave it an advantage over competitors with gigantic ad budgets because its fans wanted to talk about it online. “It’s the difference between launching with many millions of dollars versus millions of fans.”

The campaign marks one of the largest the coffee brand has ever conducted, and for good reason: rival McDonald's is currently promoting its suite of McCafé beverages with a $100 million effort across TV, print, radio, billboard and the 'net — marking McD's largest product introduction since the '70s.

Starbucks did not disclose the ultimate cost of the campaign, but did express its intention to differentiate itself from discount fare like McDonald's, which "is trying to just commoditize coffee and take it down to a level where all coffee’s the same, and if coffee's coffee, you might as well buy the cheap stuff," insisted CMO Terry Davenport.

"We just don’t believe that to be true. That’s why we wanted to tell our stories."

On the Saturday prior to the Presidential election, Starbucks sponsored a :60-second TV spot promoting an Election Day coffee giveaway. The piece aired during "Saturday Night Live" and was also posted online. Within three days, it became the fourth-most-viewed video on YouTube, with Twitter users mentioning "Starbucks" every eight seconds.

Image credit: The New York Times.

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