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Starbucks Marketing Strategy – Decoding the Success of Starbucks

Starbucks, founded in 1971, was nothing more than a company that sold coffee beans. They didn’t offer any premium coffee drinks. The original vision of Starbucks was “Establish Starbucks as the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world while maintaining our uncompromising principles while we grow.” There was nothing as sort of “Starbucks Marketing Strategy” initially.

However, when Howard Schultz took over the company in 1987, they created a new marketing plan for Starbucks. This was “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time.” This time, the focus was to create a personal connection between their customers, the baristas and their organization. Now, the marketing plan for Starbucks is all about catering to their customers. Starbucks marketing strategy is all about customization.

Now, the question is who are their customers? According to a research report done in April 2017, the target audience of Starbucks is the men & women of the upper and middle class that can afford to have Starbucks beverages regularly. Once the audience is defined, the question that comes up is how do they convince people to spend that sort of money, especially when they can have coffee at home or somewhere else?

The new Starbucks marketing strategy includes a “custom experience” that no other brand can offer. They offer their customers a place to be and interact. Therefore, they make the piece of the drink worth their money. You can’t deny that something is comforting about ordering a good cup of coffee and also being encouraged to sit in the shop with your laptop for work. That’s the experience you will get when you visit Starbucks. This is the primary Starbucks marketing strategy.

Source – Knoema

The Consistency of Starbucks Marketing Plan

Being an internationally renowned brand, the Starbucks marketing strategy needed to be consistent. This includes every message they send, every piece of the branded collateral they create and every aspect of their in-store design and experience.

Let us start with their logo. In 47 years, the Starbucks logo went through four different changes. According to research by Work Design Group, when Starbucks decided to revamp its branding strategy in 2011, it faced a major challenge. What was it?

Starbucks was already operating in 55 different countries. Starbucks marketing strategy needed to catch a broader audience. Thus, they created a new concept for the logo. Later on, they cut the word Starbucks and Coffee. This was because they wanted to go beyond selling coffee products.

The Rise of an Unbeatable Starbucks Marketing Strategy Consistency

The clean and modern philosophy extends to everything they created. Right from the atmosphere of their stores to the digital content, and their advertising, everything looks and feels like Starbucks. Even the cups and tumblers that you buy from Starbucks have got a clean and modern design to them. The question is what is the result of it?

The experience that you get from Starbucks is always consistent. Whether you are reading a social post, standing in a queue, watching a TV ad or interacting with the brand in any way, the consistent branding strategy of Starbucks ensured you have a great experience throughout.

You can walk into a local Starbucks store and then get into another one just after an hour. You shall still get the same experience.

Starbucks Growth Strategy

Source – Starbucks

What does Starbucks Marketing Strategy Look Like?

The best thing about Starbucks marketing strategy is they have incorporated the four P’s of marketing in a great way. Here is what they did.

Product of Starbucks

The product quality of Starbucks is top-notch. They never compromise on the quality of the product. The reason is, Starbucks’ product must be of high quality to justify for their audience to buy it. You will pay for the premium coffee; therefore, you must have such experience. It must taste better than the iced macchiato that you would get at McDonald’s drive-through for lesser money. The goal is to craft high-quality products every time that enables people to come back.

The Price

As we are all aware that Starbucks sells their coffee at a premium price or it is at least 25% higher than value brands. In 1990, they could sell only 3% of coffee at premium prices in the USA, while the sale increased to 40% by the end of 2000. According to Harvard Business Review, they call it “The Starbucks Effect“. The business strategy of Starbucks included offering customers exceptional food and drinks. Starbucks can charge more for the food and drinks. Why? The reason is people are willing to pay for it.

Promotion of Starbucks

When it comes to the promotion of Starbucks, they use a large variety of channels to market their product – starting from social media platforms to TV spots and Starbucks advertising strategy online. Starbucks social media marketing mix makes its brand easily recognizable. Also, the consistent message that comes with the food and drinks every time, makes them stand out. Starbucks marketing promotions are not cheap. However, when you compare them with other global brands like Nike or Apple, Starbucks spends a lot less money on marketing and they still make an impact.


When you read anything about Starbucks, they shall probably mention the concept of “the third place”. This is the place between the workplace and our homes. They created a space where people want to come, hang out and relax. They did this by creating a similar environment in every location at Starbucks. The key takeaway here is you create a premium experience where your brand can charge a higher price while delivering a better product than your competition.

The Content that Starbucks Create highlights their Dedication towards Consistency

We have already mentioned this before, but consistency in Starbucks promotion strategy and content is what brings Starbucks marketing strategy to the top. Every single piece of content that they publish follows the same visual and language guidelines that their audience has come to expect from the coffee mogul. Here is an example of brand awareness by Starbucks.

starbucks brand strategy

Source – Instagram

Here is also a screenshot of their web page. You shall see a consistent copy but this one has a bit more details on why Starbucks introduced the blonde espresso. They also help cater to their audience and show multiple recipes which their customers can order.

Source – Starbucks

As you keep scrolling down the web page, you see a video.

This video includes a blended version of the 16-second spots that Starbucks created for launching the new blonde espresso. Also, when you enter the store, you will see how they promote their new coffee.

marketing strategy of Starbucks

Source – Starbucks Store

From all this, it is clear that consistent messaging, branding and imagery are the key to delivering a lasting impact and message to your customers. The campaigns were designed flawlessly, from the first touch to the final purchase, and the experience was consistent. This is the level of consistency that is included in the marketing strategy of Starbucks and every brand should keep this in mind.

7 Ways Starbucks executed its Remarkable Marketing Strategy

Now that you know a bit more about Starbucks marketing strategy, here are the 7 things that you can do too as a marketing person to ensure your brand’s success.

1. Creating a Loyalty Program

Did you know? Starbucks has a great way to reward its customers who buy its products. There is a Starbucks reward program that offers incentives for buying products. You can get free in-store refills, free products (after spending a certain amount of money) and additional offers/discounts at the store. Also, with their mobile app, it has become easy for customers to pay ahead and find the location of a store. Whether it is a mobile app or something very simple as a punch card, you can always try a loyalty program to incentivize your customers. A loyalty program always gives you results.

2. Repurposing Content across all Social Media Channels

Social media is a powerhouse for all marketing tactics when it is used correctly. Starbucks marketing strategy makes sure that they do their social media right. Here are two things that they do on social media:

  1. Repurposing content

  2. Interacting with their customers

You can see from their social media profile that Starbucks create a lot of content. But what they do best is, they make things easier by repurposing content throughout all social media channels.

Now, the question is, how can you do this for yourself?

  1. Choose the language that you want to use in every post. This can be as simple as a product description or a key phrase that you want to add as a part of every post.

  2. Customize your message for every social media channel. Every social media channel comes with its own set of parameters and best practices that you must follow.

  3. Post at the best time. Find out what is the best time to post on every social media channel. This can help you to maximize the views that your content can get.

3. Offer Friendly Customer Service Even on Social Media

Use social media to not only post content but also use them to offer friendly customer service/help. If you are prompt about helping your customers on social media, it sends a great brand message. Also, it helps you to create a great conversation with your customers and fans. Here is an example of how a short and sweet conversation can enhance a customer’s experience with the brand.

Source – Twitter

When you make your social media channels a place for conversation between the customers and the brand, it solidifies that relationship. When it comes to Starbucks marketing strategy, they do the following and you can do these too.

  1. Choose a channel to focus on for customer support. This should be the channel where you spend most of the time interacting with your audience. Also, this should be the channel where they are most active. Go through the social media analytics and check the engagement rates.

  2. Create a messaging guideline for the social media handler. For instance, don’t use emojis while responding on Facebook, refer to your locations as stores/lounges, be friendly & polite and use abbreviations when necessary.

  3. Automate social media to ensure a consistent stream of content. This is the step where you need to automate social media to ensure a steady stream of content on every channel for the fans and followers.

4. Use FOMO to Your Advantage – Use Limited Time Offers

This is another effective Starbucks marketing strategy. As a brand, you have to understand and manipulate the fear of missing out amongst your audience. You can do this by creating new and limited-period offers for your products. For instance, if you check the red holiday cups, it has been their seasonal marketing strategy since 1997. What’s the catch in that? No holiday cups were the same and all the cups are available for a limited time.

Thus, if you want to implement the same thing in your brand, choose a product that you can offer for a limited time. This could be seasonal, a limited-time ingredient or anything else.

When you have chosen the product, offer it for a limited time. Give your customers enough time to enjoy the product but make it short enough that the purchase time is limited. The way Starbucks uses the seasons is the best example of this.

5. Ensure Consistent Branding throughout Everything that You Create

Being a marketer, it is crucial to make sure there is consistent branding across every platform – right from the website to the social media profiles. Create a branding guideline and make sure to stick to them for every aspect of marketing. Your branding statement is the promise that your customers want you to fulfil. For Starbucks marketing strategy it is about ensuring individual experiences in their shops, creating excellent coffee and also having a positive impact on the neighbourhoods

Final Words on Starbucks Marketing Strategy

So now we know what helped Starbucks to stay on top of the coffee industry and what Starbucks marketing strategy is. Starbucks attention to detail and dedication to consistency is the main reasons why Starbucks is successful in its marketing efforts. Remember this, the scale at which Starbucks execute their marketing strategy, is not possible with a disorganized team. Plan every aspect of your branding strategy and keep things organized. Are you ready to jumpstart your marketing strategy?

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