Marketing Strategies

Brands we love: Starbucks

I come from a home where a fresh pot of coffee was brewing at all hours of the day. Some of my fondest childhood memories were sitting at the kitchen table drinking a cup of Hazelnut coffee with my mother, grandmother, and sister. To this day, when I smell Hazelnut, my mind travels back to the times we spent at that kitchen table, chatting over our warm steaming mugs. It’s no surprise that at age 18, I got a job at Starbucks. I often say this was the best job I ever had – free smells and free coffee!

While I am no longer an employee, I am a lifelong customer for two reasons. First, I love the taste of their coffee and their espresso (the base of their delicious handcrafted drinks); my go-to drink is a classic cup of Pike Place. Second, their ongoing commitment to the communities they serve. Starbucks operates their coffeehouses as a member of our neighborhood communities and not a global corporation. They truly live out their mission statement, To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time, with philanthropic programs through the Starbucks Foundation that benefit their local communities.

The iconic coffee chain has one of the most engaging digital marketing strategies out there. They have excelled at meeting their audience where they are – on social media. In fact, their number of followers speaks for them:

  • Twitter: 10,900,000 followers
  • Facebook: 36,725,332 followers
  • Instagram: 18,200,000 followers
  • YouTube: 291,000 subscribers

So, what makes Starbucks’ digital marketing so successful? They put their customers at the heart of their marketing and work relentlessly to engage them! Here are a few ways they’ve been able to generate engagement and sustain it.

Creating appealing contests

Do you remember the #redcupart campaign? Winners were given free coffee for a year in exchange for their red cup art. They simply decorated their Starbucks cup, snapped a photo and uploaded it with the hashtag, #redcupart. Everyone is striving toward individualization and creativity on social media and Starbucks put the possibility directly in their hands. In turn, they got a ton of user-generated content for their social media marketing. This cost them nothing, and think about the brand exposure it produced!

Spotlighting employee stories

We often see and hear how powerful customer testimonials are, but what about employee testimonials? Employees are so important to a company’s brand identity. They represent the brand and are responsible for the first and lasting impressions on customers. Starbucks has a Starbucks Stories campaign that features employees sharing their stories from all around the globe. I recently read about Gianny, a Store Development Manager in Miami who had the opportunity to open the first Starbucks in her home country, the Dominican Republic. The sense of pride she had for this work is a testimony to the company and the opportunities they create for their employees.

Creating memorable moments

Each year, customers of Starbucks anxiously anticipate the release of seasonal drinks that have become annual traditions. #PSL anyone? The Pumpkin Spice flavor alone has created a cult following. They could offer it year-round, but the seasonal scarcity of it is what truly increases the demand for the product. Once November begins, the infamous red cups are rolled out… and customers look forward to it almost as much as the drinks themselves! Starbucks discovered what resonates with their customers and invested in delighting their audience. These moments give consumers something to look forward to year over year and keep them coming back for more.

Starbucks gets more than just their digital marketing right. If you were to look up any recent news from the company, you’d see a cascade of articles that focus on their community service and philanthropy efforts. As a former employee, I remember making daily donations of our unsold pastries to the local food pantries instead of throwing them away. Their connection with their customers’ communities goes beyond mere coffee. They give communities what they love – quality coffee and a memorable connection.

Amber Watts
Sales Training Manager

Amber Watts is Data Axle’s sales training manager. After 10 years in sales, Watts employs what she learned along the way to develop sales professionals with consultative skills and business savvy. Prior to Data Axle, Watts built an extensive, award-winning training curriculum at a start-up HR software company, experiencing firsthand how sales teams learn best.

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