Espresso Yourself: Starbucks Edition

Espresso Yourself: Starbucks Edition

How do students reach the finish line of the marathon that is college? The late night cram sessions, trying to juggle grades, sleep, and a social life at the same time, all the while dining on ramen for the fourth night in a row because you are a millennial who can’t have nice things. The reality is, that while running this marathon, we can be found huddled in the corner of an MLC study room, crying and stress eating while we attempt to salvage our GPA and any possibility of a future.

So how is it that this little girl above isn’t us 24/7 (but sometimes she is). Well, in the wise words of Lorelai Gilmore, “What I need now is lots and lots of coffee.” Coffee somehow increases the number of hours in the day, makes nine a.m. classes somewhat bearable (if you take an eight a.m. you are just insane, coffee or no coffee), pushes us to be our most productive selves, and of course keeps us bright eyed and bushy tailed. Also, coffee shops provide the ideal spot for studying, socializing, or just getting your favorite coffee drink in a comfy location. For these blog posts over the semester, I am going to explore how and how well different coffee shops utilize digital media to reach their consumers.


This week I ran out of time, so I chose an easily accessible, well known spot to get my cappuccino fix: Starbucks. Starbucks was first opened in Seattle, Washington on March 31, 1971. Since then, it has become wildly popular with stores all around the world. Starbucks is one of the leading companies when it comes to successful digital marketing. The company utilizes its social media and digital platforms in a way that not only showcases the coffee but also portrays the individual stores as the perfect spot to socialize with friends and family. Some of the digital marketing methods I’d like to discuss are Starbucks’ use of Instagram, its mobile app and rewards program, and the popular digital ad campaigns it runs.

Over the past decade, society has become infatuated with viewing images of overly-decadent food, AKA “food porn.” The concept of food porn on social media has become so wildly popular that Instagram food bloggers can make anywhere between a couple thousand to hundreds of thousands from simply blogging about food. Starbucks excels at producing content that is aesthetically pleasing, looks delicious, and matches its brand image. Its posts typically receive a couple hundred thousand likes, and are followed by 15.9 million happy coffee drinkers around the world. Starbucks even utilizes its Instagram feed to engage with customers, receive feedback, and provide customer service. Not only is Starbucks producing content on this platform, but its customers are doing half the work for the company. By tagging Starbucks in their caption, using it as their location, or even using hashtags (#starbucksforlife), customers are fueling the success this company receives.

Consumers are obsessed with instant gratification. People don’t want to wait for the things they purchase; they want them now. Here’s where Starbucks’ mobile app comes into play. As a user of this app, you have the luxury of not having to stand in long lines with all the other Starbucks junkies, waiting for your grande-quadruple-nonfat-one-pump-no-whip-mocha. Simply order and pay on the app, and you’re all set! The app also offers customers other benefits, such as a rewards program, challenges, mobile shopping, and the ability to load your Starbucks card and use it digitally in the store. Customers who choose to use the rewards program are able to accumulate stars, or points, towards free food and drinks in the store. Once they reach a certain spending level, they can become gold card members who can get free coffee and tea refills in the store as well as birthday treats. Overall, while the rewards program and mobile app have been successful at attracting new customers, they have been wildly successful at encouraging repeat customers.

Starbucks, as I said before, does a fantastic job at producing aesthetically pleasing content. Its marketing campaigns are typically very well received. Starbucks’ most recent campaign for the 2017 holiday season dominated the market, becoming the number one holiday campaign. The theme, “Here’s to the holidays,” promoted diversity and acceptance while featuring their new coloring cups. Another successful marketing campaign was the one the company ran this past fall leading up to the release of the PSL, Pumpkin Spice Latte. Starbucks held a live feed featuring a pumpkin from which the PSL was to “hatch.” This, coming as it did after the live feed covering April the giraffe, was genius. In order to increase the number of viewers and amp up the anticipation, Starbucks randomly placed pumpkin facts on cardboard signs, fall related decorations, kittens, and did pumpkin portrait painting.

Starbucks not only does an excellent job at satisfying my caffeine addiction but also is a leader when it comes to marketing its products to its consumers and engaging us, really feeding into our needs as humans in this technologically isolating age to connect with each other using social media and digital platforms. Now, I’ll take my grande double shot hazelnut latte with whip to go along with a side of cramming. Thanks for reading and see you next time!


Molly McDonough

Molly McDonough

January 17, 2018at 8:48 pm

I am also guilty of being a severe caffeine addict and use Starbucks as my fix way too often. I completely agree that their marketing strategies are always unique and relevant, and do a great job bringing customers into their stores. One of my favorite marketing tactics of Starbucks is the mobile app that you referred to. I use this app all the time and am able to load money on it to make paying easier while earning rewards. This is a great way to get customers to interact with their brand and keep them coming back to the store. One of their recent campaigns featuring their blonde espresso has caught my attention, because they are currently using bright yellow coffee holders that stand out from what you normally see on a Starbucks cup.

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