Are you a Starbucks junkie who’d gladly stomp across a bed of rusty nails for a Caffe Americano? Or do you scoff at the coffee maven’s high prices and frilly drinks? Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter how you feel about Starbucks. Fan or foe, you must admit that no one markets better than they do. From this modest location in Seattle to over 21,000 outlets worldwide, Starbucks has become THE name in coffee around the globe. Yes, Starbucks has re-written the rules of advertising and turned the marketing industry upside down. If you’d like to promote like Starbucks, here are a few methods you might want to try.
1) Promote “Patriotically”
Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, used a stroke of genius when he appealed to America’s sense of national pride to promote his brand. During the 2013 Government shutdown, Schultz offered a free coffee to anyone in the country who purchased a coffee for someone else. In Entrepreneur‘s “Starbucks’ Free Coffee Promotion Isn’t Actually About Ending the Government Shutdown,” Schultz explained that the company wanted to set a good example and “help people support and connect with one another, even as we wait for our elected officials to do the same for our country.” While some were not fooled and eagerly pointed out that this altruistic endeavor was, in fact, a cleverly disguised “buy one, get one” promotion, it did bring people through the coffee shop’s doors and increase the brand’s “street cred.”
2) Mine Customer Minds
The secret behind any successful business is listening to your customers and giving them what they want–and the My Starbucks Idea initiative allows Starbucks to make that happen. Not only does this clever crowd-sourcing tool enable them to closely monitor customer opinion and collect ideas pertaining to potential products and customer service improvements, but it also invites consumers to actively interface with the Starbucks brand–creating greater customer loyalty and enhancing Starbucks’ “warm and fuzzy,” approachable image.
3) Recruit and Toot
No one toots their own horn more subtly and creatively than Starbucks. Yes, their “arms wide open, come on in” persona is communicated at every opportunity–even in their efforts to recruit. The Starbucks career site and its many employment-focused social media accounts do more than simply advertise jobs, attract hopeful candidates, and serve as a resume-collecting portal. They also reinforce the company’s people-friendly image. As “Social Recruitment Strategies to Learn From: Starbucks” adds, “with clear messaging that states that Starbucks gives its applicants a chance to be more than an employee, but a partner, the people of the company are placed at the forefront of its immense success.” Once again, it’s all about the people.
4) Promote “Playfully”
Your customers want to have fun. And Starbucks knows they’ll even promote your products for you, if you turn it into a game. When Starbucks first introduced its pumpkin spice latte–yes, that sip of heavenly nectar that is only available in the fall–they introduced a contest to determine which city it would be launched in first. Suddenly, communities across the nation were competing for the first sip of a beverage they had never even tried–and, in the interim, helping to promote the Starbucks brand. Furthermore, as “How Starbucks Turned the Pumpkin Spice into a Marketing Jackpot” offers “creating a limited-time-only marketing campaign is a great way to drive sales and demand.” When summer ends and the leaves begin to turn, Starbucks can count on its legion of PSL fans entering their doors in hordes to enjoy this seasonal beverage before it disappears until next year. Yes, Starbucks is more than just a homey coffee shop with tasty beverages. After all, there are plenty of those around. The secret to Starbucks success lies in its marketing prowess and clever promotions–and its image as your home away from home. If you admire Starbucks’ social media savvy and would like to harness the power of social media to promote your brand, you will want to learn more at “Budgeting for Social Media Marketing.”
– Kimberley Laws is a freelance writer, avid blogger, and pumpkin spice latte addict who is counting down the days until October arrives. There are a lot of days left. You can follow her at The Embiggens Project.