Wednesday, July 24

A Transparent Brand Strategy


I love when you can tell what a brand's strategy is all about ... I make it a practice to try to figure it out, almost like a game.  My very own version of "fun!"

Some brand strategies are kind of tricky, but others are just so gut-level simple that it's really easy to pick apart.

Like the current "campaign" at Starbucks.  I put "campaign" in quotes because it's not like it's a cookie-cutter piece of creative that they've stuck across marketing elements.  It's actually a well-timed series of components that don't seem to piece together at first, until you put two and two together.

The brand is clearly trying to amp up its sales in the mid-afternoon.  They must have some data that has shown their sales to slump during this period, most likely as folks are focused on staying at their desks and in their meetings as opposed to running out for a cup of joe.

You can't really tell that this is a cohesive brand strategy until you piece three of their current marketing programs together:

The Treat Receipt.  For a limited time, whenever you buy a beverage in the morning you can come back with your receipt after 2:00pm and get another one for $2.00 (medium or grande size).  Good incentive to come back in the afternoon and not have to pay another hefty full price.

New Refreshers.  The stores are heavily promoting their new Refreshers drinks, designed with light caffeine for all day consumption.  Get that?  All day.

3:00pm Wake Up Call.  The brand's new advertising talks about the 3:00pm wake up call ... you know, the slump you feel right in the middle of the afternoon when you could use a pick up.  A universal emotion, actually, that the brand smartly capitalizes on.  Quite well done.

These three seemingly separate marketing programs all ladder up to promoting beverage consumption in the wee hours of the afternoon, clearly a marketing strategy to build sales.  And an integrated one at that.  I love it when a brand is transparent.

What's your experience?  Jim.

Jim Joseph
- President, Cohn & Wolfe NA
- Author, The Experience Effect series
- Professor, NYU
- Contributor, Entrepreneur and Huffington Post


  1. Keen eye...I would have thought they were just trying to get rid of syrup! Recently read in NY Times that they were teaming up with Danone to create a line of yogurts called ''Evolution Fresh''. The addition of product offerings that can be purchased outside of their morning traffic displays Starbucks knowledge of their consumer base. They know ''people are using Starbucks stores in many ways throughout the day.'' My experience is that no matter the promotion, depending on how hectic the work day- I will probably never be able to step away from the desk for a $2 cup of joe!

  2. Indeed, a reminder that there are some behaviors that no amount of markeitng can change. Jim.

  3. Thanks so much for pointing out this Starbucks strategy! I usually drink tea or hot chocolate from Starbucks and that's occasionally so this marketing campaign wouldn't work for me. However, it is rather cool to see a cohesive transparent strategy in place. And I'm pretty sure it will prove to be effective. I can see the avid Starbuck'ers taking that quick break to grab the deal!

  4. Very interesting to read your analysis because the first thought I had was actually that they were trying to get people "addicted" to caffeine in the afternoon. Intentional or not, the $2 promotion could have a long lasting effect if people actually catch on and make that coffee break part of their routine just as much as "the thing that gets me going" in the morning. A Starbucks experiment that could be shaping habits instead of responding to existing ones.

  5. It's hard to change behavior but if you can create a habit then that is marketing gold! Jim.

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