The King of Kona

26 Jan

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Lets play a game of word association. If I say coffee, what is the first word that comes to mind?

Starbucks, right? Either I’m clairvoyant or they have just managed to ensure such a response with their incredible marketing philosophy because you and millions of other people would likely answer the same way. They’ve guaranteed that their brand is at the forefront of people’s minds. Clearly they’re doing something right. (For the record, the other options are also very valid choices.)

The Starbucks Advertising Philosophy = No Advertising!

Their advertising philosophy is that there is no advertising. Think about it: How many Starbucks commercials have you seen? I bet that you haven’t seen any. Am I right? I guarantee you’ve seen print ads, but not TV ads. So how have they managed to build and maintain their “espresso empire”? It all comes down to amazing branding! “You can be extraordinarily successful as a business using what people would call non-traditional means,” says Senior VP of Marketing, Anne Saunders. “It’s expanded my notion of how important experience versus information or one-way communication can be.” When you walk or drive by a Starbucks, the parking lot is always full and there is always a line, am I right?

Non-Traditional Channels:
Do a search on YouTube for “Starbucks commercials” and you’ll come across quirky – slightly vague – vignettes. The brand has solidified a formula for success. Why spend millions in advertising dollars for TV commercials when we are all clearly in the virtual world? I mean, there are entire fields of study, college majors and advanced certifications dedicated to success online because that’s where business and the world exist.
 It’s an online world…so that’s where they are. Their online presence is interactive, modern and relevant.    

Public Relations and Platform:
Marketing a company as a conscious one is an excellent platform for public relations. Starbucks stands for something. Lots of things actually: Community, Environment, Wellness, Ethical Sourcing and Diversity. Cause marketing is a very effective tool, highlighting an organization’s globally-, socially- and locally- responsible philosophies. Not only is it trendy to be associated with these causes, but by patronizing businesses that are so conscious, customers are doing a small part as well to make the world a better place. 

Another aspect of their public relations efforts is delivering an experience. “It happens millions of times each week –  a customer receives a drink from a Starbucks barista – but each interaction is unique.” It’s all about the experience – from superior products to intentional customer interaction to the cool ambience – and engaging the customer so that their Starbucks visit becomes the high point of their day. Customers leave stores with a story, an experience that they don’t get anywhere else. 

As Anne Saunders alluded to, PR isn’t one-sided. It requires action on the part of the message receiver. Action may involve a call-to-action like signing up to follow social media feeds, calling a political candidate, etc. But action is more likely to be just as simple as making a decision one way or the other about a company or organization.

Logo: 
Their logo is as easily recognizable as, say, McDonald’s golden arches or Disney’s Mickey ears. The Starbucks logo is synonymous with “cool” and “experiential”, so much so that even if someone doesn’t like coffee, they still want to be associated with the brand in some way. When people see the logo, they know what it means and it resonates with them. And they start craving their favorite Starbucks brew. 

To support my analysis, here is a snapshot of Starbucks’ retail market share vs media dollars spent. (Note: these figures are from 2007, but they illustrate my point!)

Here’s the Bottom Line: You don’t have to rely on big budgets and traditional advertising to make your brand a household name. It’s about tapping into the unique characteristics within your brand and promoting them in a new and creative way. Public relations is all about perception. Help shape people’s perceptions of your products and services by offering an overall experience, one their bound to remember.

Thanks for stopping by! ~Laura~

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