How Starbucks nails (Holiday) marketing – and how to implement it in your brand

By Chelsea Kallman, NAMA Blogger | 12.4.16

Picture this: it’s Halloween weekend, and I’m kind of craving a sweet treat. I’m just having a relaxing evening, scrolling on Instagram, when up pops an advertised post from Starbucks talking up their Frappula Frappuccino.

It’s a white chocolate mocha Frappuccino with strawberry sauce added to make it look like Dracula himself has bitten into the whipped cream.

Now, to preface, this isn’t my typical drink, and Starbucks isn’t even my go-to coffee shop. I indulge in a frappe maybe four times a year. But, darn it, if this drink doesn’t look down right spooktacular.

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The next day of my Halloween weekend, I suddenly find myself driving 15 minutes out of my way just for a “treat yo’self.” 

How did I go from not really caring about a drink (or its associated brand) to being called to action and spending my time and money in a place I don’t typically visit?

Two words: Incredible marketing.

Although a global corporation, Starbucks has a lot of marketing tips that even the smallest shop on Main Street America can employ.

Starbucks makes you feel like you’re a part of the story.

Hubspot wrote a blog about some great holiday marketing campaigns. No surprise, Starbucks is included.

The post talks about how the brand evokes emotions and promotes sharing by making everything personal. Starbucks gets at the core of what its company is all about: you, the consumer. Its marketing always goes beyond the product and speaks to the lifestyle associated with the brand.

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Starbucks for Life is one campaign that does exactly this. It’s a sweepstakes that you enter to try and win one beverage and one food item every day for the next 30 years of your life. That is a pretty incredible giveaway — equating to roughly $75,000 per winner.

Of course, everyone wants to win, so everyone signs up. All of a sudden Starbucks has multitudes of customers’ (and soon-to-be customers’) email addresses and information to further find out how they can market to their target demographic better.

Oh, and everyone loves Starbucks more than before because how kind and generous of a company are they?!

Starbucks markets its brand as a verb.

Yet another call-to-action Starbucks marketing tactic is the #redcupcontest. During this contest, coffee-aholics have a certain number of days to post the best red cup photo using the hashtag with one lucky person taking home a prize. Last year’s winner received a $500 Starbucks card. 

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The giveaway was so popular that for the first two days a #redcupcontest photo was shared to Instagram every 14 seconds. It engaged customers and got them participating in the brand. Starbucks made its customers feel special, while giving us (read: marketers) a perfect example of user-generated content.

#PSL

Pumpkin Spice Lattes have become a staple of any fall weekend. Pumpkin-flavored everything is so popular now, but what Starbucks has done is use nostalgia and that “warm and cozy lifestyle” to make this drink the cultural phenomenon that it is.

Not only does pumpkin spice latte have its own widely-accepted abbreviation, it also has its own hashtag AND its own social media presence AND PSL actually interacts with its fans. Since launching PSL in 2003, Starbucks has sold more than 200 million (and counting) of just that drink alone.

Outside of @TheRealPSL, all of Starbuck’s social media focuses on doing something. It’s not just a picture of their drinks. It’s people hiking with their drink, cheersing, or going swimming. Starbucks makes it clear that it want the brand to be about doing something.

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Mottis talks about how spot-on Starbucks is with knowing its target audience (which, if you were wondering, is men and women age 25-40).

Starbucks launches campaigns that demonstrate how its company embraces life — by living in “the now.” These folks are witty with their marketing. They have fun. Their content is personalized. It is active.

What about you? How can you make your brand about more than just a product?