Starbucks Launches New Online/Offline Social Media Campaign

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Starbucks recently launched “the biggest marketing effort it has undertaken,” according to the New York Times. The coffee company is displaying posters in major cities, then challenging people to be the first to find and tweet pictures of the the posters. The NYT has more:

The idea for the Starbucks photo contest came from watching what people already do on Facebook and Twitter, said Chris Bruzzo, vice president for brand, content and online at Starbucks. Each year, people race to post the first photos of Starbucks shops decorated in red for the holidays, he said, and on Flickr, people vie to post photos that include multiple Starbucks stores in the same shot.

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.

Starbucks says it thinks its campaign will be helped by its 1.5 million fans on Facebook and 183,000 followers on Twitter. On the Saturday before the presidential election, Starbucks sponsored a single 60-second television commercial on “Saturday Night Live” advertising a coffee giveaway on Election Day. Starbucks then posted the video online. By Tuesday, it was the fourth-most-viewed video on YouTube, and people were mentioning Starbucks on Twitter every eight seconds.

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.”

What does the first photo tweeter win? According the Mashable, Starbucks failed to mention that minor detail. I’m also not sure about the poster that says “Beware of a cheaper cup of coffee. It comes with a price.” In a recession, shouldn’t Starbucks be touting its cheaper coffee as still being quality, not defending its more expensive brew?

But those are minor details. The big picture is more positive for Starbucks. Its online/offline integration is a fantastic idea, and one that companies are using more and more. Starbucks’ use of the campaign reflects its ability to keep pace with its customers, which, in turn, bolsters its reputation as a progressive, hip company that cares.

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  • Starbucks seems to be grasping at Frappuccino straws here. They’e getting tactic focused rather than thinking about their brand overall. This may lead to short term growth, but short term growth is rarely sustainable.

    Interestingly Starbucks tried to bring price into competition back in 2008 but by going cheaper, when they offered $2 grande iced drinks for anyone showing a receipt earlier in the day. Not surprisingly, it didn’t really work as competing on price is almost a surefire downfall to a business, but at that time they thought “they hit the nail on the head,” according to their vp of CRM.

    I’m not sure what the “price” that the cheaper coffee comes with is, as many of their near competitors have won out in taste tests against them. Seems like pretty shaky ground to be standing on.

  • Pete D’Agostino

    The price Starbucks is referring to is the business practices their competitors are engaged in. It should cost a certain amount for a cup of coffee if you want not only a quality brew but fair trade, employees treated well, etc. This is all about their brand as a whole, in a time when consumers demand social responsibility.