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Ask any regular Starbucks customer how many Starbucks commercials they have seen in their lifetime and you are almost guaranteed to get a response of ‘one’ or ‘none’. That is not to say that coffee drinkers are now watching less television. Rather, the lack of Starbucks commercials highlights the company’s unique advertising strategy – don’t advertise.
Sure, there are one or two Starbucks commercials, but the company is hesitant to focus on traditional methods of advertising. “It really is about connecting with someone in a more intimate, experiential way that we think will have longer lasting ability to build affinity than a 30-second TV commercial or an ad,” says Senior Vice-President of Marketing at Starbucks Anne Saunders.
Instead of producing Starbucks commercials for the masses, the company chooses instead to focus on the customer’s in-store experience. “You can be extraordinarily successful as a business using what people would call non-traditional means,” says Saunders. “It’s expanded my notion of how important experience versus information or one-way communication can be.”
The average Starbucks customer visits the store six times per month while the heaviest 20% of customers go to Starbucks at least 16 times per month. Thus, company executives feel that improving the in-store customer experience is a much more effective means of advertising than via Starbucks commercials. Starbucks encourages the promotion of their stores as a ‘third home’, providing comfortable chairs for customers to relax and spend time in, playing music and providing outlets for people to plug their laptops into. So far, as Starbucks surpassed the 10,000 mark for number of outlets worldwide, it seems that word of mouth advertising has worked more wonders than Starbucks commercials might.
Nevertheless, in an ironic twist of fate, the few Starbucks commercials that this anti-commercial company did release have achieved huge popularity, with an almost cult-like following. One of the Starbucks commercials for DoubleShot features ‘Glen’, who drinks a can in the morning before going to work while the band Survivor sings about his ambitions to the tune of their hit single Eye of the Tiger. In another of the Starbucks commercials, ‘Stacey’ takes a break at work to drink her Frappuccino while a doo-wop band sings and keeps her bosses away.
In a joint venture with Pepsi-Cola, these Starbucks commercials have admittedly driven up sales and have received very positive feedback. A survey of these Starbucks commercials reported that 26% of respondents liked them a lot and that they appealed equally to men and women. Key to both Starbucks commercials was the music.
While happy with the result of these Starbucks commercials, company executives insist they’ll stick to focusing on creating a unique and welcoming first-hand experience in all of their retail outlets, a task that gets harder with each new store they launch. They do not rule out the possibility of producing new Starbucks commercials in the future, but for now, they are keeping busy trying to think about marketing and advertising in a unique and different way. So far, so good.
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