Starbucks: “Significant Investment, Significant Return”


Starbucks, the number one consumer brand on Facebook, understands, “Traditional marketing is changing dramatically. You can’t push people. You have to engage them in a conversation and they have to trust the source”-Howard Schultz, CEO and Chairman.

The New York Times article http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/19/business/media/19starbux.html shows how the company directly applied social networking and digital media to their marketing strategies. Starbucks recently unveiled new advertising posters and invitied its consumers to search for the posters. A competitive twist was incorporated by being the first to post a photo of one of the advertisements on Twitter.

With the economic downturn, those who frequent the coffee chain are having a hard time rationalizing a five dollar white mocha each morning. Especially when McDonalds offers coffee at a fraction of the price. After all, coffee is coffee, right? Wrong, according to Starbucks. It should not come as a shock to us students of Human Behavior, Starbucks doesn’t only sell coffee, they sell a third-place environment; not home, not work, but Starbucks. The article, however, is quick to emphasize the quality of the brand. “The full-page newspaper ads goes to some length to describe how Starbucks selects only the best 3 percent of beans and roasts them until they pop twice, and gives its part-time workers health insurance.”

What is really quite genius about the brand is how they studied the embedded habits of social media users and were able to integrate their marketing campaign around behaviors that were already occurring, not the other way around. “The idea for the Starbucks photo contest came from watching what people already do on Facebookand Twitter.” The  brand was able to capitalize on behaviors that their customers were already participating in.

“It’s the difference between launching with many millions of dollars versus millions of fans.”

True, Starbucks probably spent quite a chunk of change on the new poster advertisement, (the wouldn’t reveal the exact cost) but that wasn’t their most significant breakthrough. Instead, it was what it translated to, a conversation online. While McDonalds spent 100 million dollars are their marketing campaign against Starbucks and other top competitors, Starbucks realized their strongest campaign was to join the one that was already alive and well within social media. How can your brand join the conversation?

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