Graduate School Artifacts

It’s Not Just Coffee, it’s a Way of Life

Experience–the key to Starbucks’ marketing success!

Many may think the reason Starbucks undermines all its competitors is due to their one-of-a-kind coffee blends, but I beg to differ. Starbucks’ emphasis on their customers’ experience and engagement allows them to be the leader of all coffee brands, and one of the leading brands on social media.

Although Starbucks’ large success makes them an affluent company with a large marketing budget, they capitalize more from social media integration. They have a variety of social platforms, but the ones with the most users are Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Starbucks has become a culture, a way of life, and that is confirmed by the numerous of Starbucks’ products being displayed on social media daily.


Yes, Starbucks has an impressive Facebook page with over 36 million likes, but what’s even more fascinating is their page for just their Frappuccino drink. What would you find on a page that solely dedicates itself to one beverage? That word again…Customer Experience. On “its” (the Frappuccino’s) Facebook page, there is a link to the Frappuccino’s website, where customers are encouraged to post their interactions with the drink. According to Starbucks News, in 2008, fans of the iconic beverage created a fan page that was dedicated to their unique experiences with the frozen coffee. They also communicated new ideas for flavors and included which established flavor was their favorite. This allowed Starbucks to have a better understanding of their customers, and with that connection, their company continues to flourish.


Starbucks’ main Twitter page has over 11.3 million followers. I say “main” because they have Twitter pages for specific countries, a reward page, a page for news updates, a page for customers to vote on new ideas, and my favorite, pages for their drinks.

Similar to the Frappuccino Facebook page, Starbucks created a Twitter account for their fans’ favorite fall coffee-Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL). However, the coffee giant took the PSL’s Twitter to another level, by tweeting from a first-person perspective. Pumpkin Spice Latte tweeted about its adventures, which encouraged its followers to do the same. Currently, in the off-season, this page has over 116,000 followers.


Starbucks News outlined the reason behind the life-like PSL. Marketers realized the majority of their PSL followers followed more celebrities than friends. This information gave them the idea to give the tasty beverage a famous alter ego. It’s safe to say that their theory worked!



In 2015, Starbucks found themselves in the middle of a holiday “crisis”—The Red Cup Controversy. Some customers were mad at Starbucks’ decision to produce solid red cups, with no holiday design. Starbucks however, shined its true marketing colors, as they spun the controversy, and reminded the world of their love for their customers’ artistry. They launched a #RedCupArt contest. The contest encouraged customers to show their artistic ability and individuality, by drawing their own designs on their red cup filled with their favorite beverage. Starbucks “regrammed” the best pictures and shouted out the artist.

In fact, the fascinating part about Starbucks’ Instagram is the majority of their posts are regrams from their customers. The possibility of being mentioned on one of the most popular brands’ Instagram is exciting to most, therefore soon as customers receive their fresh cup of coffee, they are snapping a picture and posting it on their page. If they tag Starbucks, they give themselves the chance to be published on the coffee mogul’s page. That page has over 7.4 million followers—that’s instant fame!


Social media is the majority of Starbucks’ marketing strategy, but their interactive app is a huge success as well; it encourages many customers to become reward members. Participants transfer money to the app, and make their purchases using their phone. Every time they purchase a product using the app, they participate in a game and win a reward. The more rewards they win, the more discounts and free products they receive. Casey Neal describes how the app allows members to access free music, and creates a competitive environment that encourages them to keep coming back to Starbucks. Similar to airline reward members, these coffee lovers want to reach a new status with the company, so they buy more products.

sbux_for_life_game-pieces1-600This year, Starbucks revised their Starbucks for Life contest to obtain more reward members. Members, who utilize the app and participate in the games on their phone, are entered to win many prizes. As the title of the contest suggests, the reward with the largest pay off would be winning Starbucks for life. According to Starbucks, seven people won this deal in 2015. Other prizes include, Starbucks for a year, a month, a week, a day, and gift cards ranging from a variety of values.

All of these media platforms reinforce the theory that Starbucks has created a culture, not just the best coffee in the world. Starbucks ensures their customers get the best products with the best experiences. They have created a community by using integrated communications strategies. Although some may try to rebel from the social status that a Starbucks’ cup brings, the reality is, it’s cool—Starbucks made it that way.

P.S.-Check out Starbucks newest partnership!



How the Starbucks Social Media Team Captures the Personality of Frappuccino. (2015, May 06). Retrieved January 23, 2016, from

Neal, C. (2015, March 31). Starbucks’ Marketing Power Comes from Its Commitment to Social Media. Retrieved January 23, 2016, from



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