During the politely termed “economic downturn of 2008,” Starbucks was one of the companies that appeared to get kneed in the financial groin. News of nationwide store closings and slumping stock traveled faster than Frappuccino-induced brain freeze. Layoffs and marketing cutbacks soon followed suit for the Seattle-based coffee giant. Yet Starbucks held strong, rolling out value-priced items, healthier food and a plethora of web-based promotional schemes that allowed them to stay relevant. Today in the “sure, it’s a little better than Bush” economic era, Starbucks remains a tough and omnipresent brand by leaning heavily on social media, online branding, geolocation sites, original video programming and online promotional offers.
MyStarbucksIdea.com is a crafty little way for the company to collect customer suggestions. Presented like social media, My Starbucks Idea allows coffee experts to share their ideas on how they would make Starbucks even better. From fully biodegradable cups to Starbucks-scented air freshener, no idea is considered to be too silly or too small. As with the other features on Starbucks.com, the promotion requires visitors to sign in before they can sound off about improving the joint. Thoughtful and interactive, My Starbucks Idea also is a brilliant way to keep in touch with the company’s loyal customers.
Social media is a big part of the new Starbucks marketing campaign, too. Facebook’s Starbucks page lets users check the balance of their Starbucks rewards card, chat with Starbucks users globally and create an “instant story” as part of the company’s promotion of its new instant coffee brand Via. Twitter is, of course, employed to alert the coffee-razzi of new menu items and even celebrity sightings. With Foursquare continuing to grow, Starbucks recently started to offer discounts to “Mayors” of the location. Given Foursquare’s hipness and Starbuck’s image revamp, the collaboration is a perfect match.
What makes the Starbucks’ online image overhaul so successful and appealing is the overall simplicity of the campaign. The company’s website is a checklist of what today’s consumers want to hear. Environmentally conscious? Check. Social media gravitas? Check. Addressing its clients’ shrinking budgets? Check. Whether you’re a no-fat latte gal or green tea frappuccino kind of guy, Starbucks’ online marketing plan is one that every business can learn something from.