Integrating online and offline marketing: Starbucks launch most ambitious marketing effort yet

6a00d834515c0a69e201156f6bf68d970cI like the Starbucks brand. I like how they play jazz and reggae instead of the latest top 40 tripe in their stores (although that might be the particular branches I frequent), I like how their business has strong ethical foundations, and their coffee isn’t bad either.

But in the current economic climate (god…I’m sick of hearing that), what are they doing to keep connecting people to what is essentially, an expensive luxury?

In a bid to combat perceptions that their coffee is overpriced – which incidentally it is – and to compete with McDonalds’ $100 million marketing campaign promoting their new McCafé drinks line,  they recently launched their biggest marketing effort yet. They will place posters like the one pictured above in 6 major US cities and, making use of their already established online community (1.5 million Facebook fans and 183,000 Twitter followers), they aim to spread the word further by challenging people to hunt down posters next tuesday and be the first to post a photo of one of them on twitter.

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To me this is a great example of a company providing an extra dimension to their traditional marketing efforts by allowing the online community to participate and tell the story for them. Their online community gives them a distinctive advantage over competitors and they are right to get them involved.

We’re seeing more and more examples of online and offline integration, allowing consumers the chance to actually interact with traditional media  – which is still the most effective means of reaching a mass audience – while also utilising the power of online word-of-mouth. I suspect that McDonald’s will need more than its big ad spend to compete with a brand with such a compelling story to tell and such a significant community of potential advocates.

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About Tom Craik

Senior Account Executive at Finn Communications, a PR and Word of Mouth agency based in Leeds. Baby face. Northern Monkey. Attention junkie. Space man. Fake tan. Dancefloor dreamer. Analyser. Deliberator. Wordsmith. Book worm. Head in clouds. Telecaster. Dance floor master. Closet rasta. Free love. Fresh jokes. Old gear. Naff beard. Existential. Influential. Left of centre. iPod. Math rock. Psych Folk. Dropping dubstep. Chicken Balti. Laos. Berlin. Bass bin. Circle pit. Guggenheim. Baltic. Cabernet. Globalised. Wired. No house. No car. Going places!
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3 Responses to Integrating online and offline marketing: Starbucks launch most ambitious marketing effort yet

  1. Topher Batchelor says:

    While this is a clever strategy from Starbucks, and one that should perhaps be applauded as not being over-indulgent through the bank-account self-love committee, it is perhaps more relevant as an example of a major corporation band-wagoning a creative bi-media solution that many smaller, and less well bank-rolled companies have done before them. even bigger companies got their first, remembering Volvo’s “find an XC90” or whatever it was, in conjunction with a major pirate film at the time.

    Starbucks may be ethical in relation to its content, but its cluster strategy of shop management leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to business ethics. how many independent coffee shops have had to close because of 3 starbucks opening on the same street? more than zero, i am quite sure. and it wasnt coincidence, this was the starbucks strategy from the outset practically.

    i am all for creative pr solutions, and involving various media in a smooth and boundary-less fashion is laudable. but i would rather see, and subsequently support, it being done by companies that simply can not rely on big advertising budgets like starbucks could.

    • postmodernpr says:

      I agree in some respects.

      I too would rather see this being done by less dominant businesses that require this kind of innovation as a real alternative to big budget advertising. Although, I’d say that this particular kind of online/offline synergy can only be achieved on this scale with big brands with big online followings, like starbucks.

      In terms of Ethics, I suppose their ruthless business strategy leaves a lot to be desired, but small coffee shops closing is a necessary by-product (albeit a very negative one) of their success. I’m sure their domination is contributing to the demise of a diverse cafe-culture world wide and that’s a real shame, but thats a whole different topic of discussion.

      Thanks for the comment.

  2. Topher Batchelor says:

    Yes, I can see what you are saying. I suppose to redefine pr traditions it will take big players on a global stage.

    And once these “new” approaches to marketing are exemplified and proven as successful promotional models, it will be easier for smaller business’s to take what is still widely considered to be an incalculable “risk”.

    Pleasure to comment, and thank you for your continued discussion.

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