Power to the Cup of Coffee

Imagine it is Wednesday October 5, 2016. Your alarm just woke up. Bleary-eyed, exhausted, and slightly disheartened that it is only “Hump Day,” you open up your Instagram for some morning entertainment and distraction from the fact that you are seriously questioning whether or not you have it in you to make it through the rest of the week. FYI, you are also most definitely going to be late for your 9 am (again). You scroll a few times through Instagram and are amazed that so many of your friends both from BC and from home have woken up much earlier than you and are all at the same coffee shop. What gives?!


“Luke’s Diner, Luke’s Diner, Luke’s Diner” you think to yourself, “where have you seen this before?” After a moment of recall, you instinctually realize you’ve been inside this coffee shop thousands of times as you sat on your couch at home and watched every single episode of the 7 season’s of Gilmore Girls with your mom, your aunts, your best friends, and unabashedly even your dog when no one was around. Today, Wednesday October 5, Luke’s Diner is a real diner; it is no longer a memory or the scene in one of the fictional episodes of Gilmore Girls. How can this be?


Exactly 16 years ago, Gilmore Girls piloted its first episode. For those viewers who know little about the series (gasp), allow me to explain. Gilmore Girls is a comedy series that follows the ups and downs of the relationship between mom, Lorelai Gilmore, and daughter, Rory. The trials and tribulations the two undergo together and individually in their small town, Stars Hollow, CT is both comical and relatable to many of the show’s followers, predominately mothers and daughters. This cherished relationship, as well as the comical suburbia nuances is in large part why the series has been able to foster and harness an intensely loyal fan-base.

Netflix recognized this cult-like following as an opportunity for success. It picked up the series, reignited admiration for the show by making all 7 series available through its online streaming services. This move added significant value to Netflix, and ultimately lead to the upcoming release of its 4 episodes in a series titled “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” this November 25.

Here in lies the crux of my argument: the cup of coffee is powerful.  To heighten the anticipation amongst existing fans and to expand the breath of its following, Netflix sponsored the Luke’s Diner pop ups for a day. It brought one of the series’ most integral scenes, Luke’s diner, to life.   On October 5, fans everywhere could be Rory, Lorelai, and even Luke for a few minutes. To facilitate this, Netflix reached out to 200+ independent coffee shops across the country to transform themselves into individual Luke’s Diners. Netflix equipped them with Gilmore Girl decorations like cardboard cutout signs that read “Luke’s Diner,” cutouts of the fictional diner owner himself, Luke, and “no cellphone” signs to remain true to the restaurant’s small town authenticity. (Despite the sign, digital media is most definitely relevant in this example. Read on for proof). Netflix supplied every participating coffee shop with branded hats and aprons for their baristas and sold Luke’s Diner apparel including T-shirts and aprons. In addition, it supplied each shop “Luke’s Diner” specific coffee cups adorned with unique quotes from the different episodes written on them. A few lucky customers even won 3-4 free months of Netflix subscriptions.


All these efforts vastly increased in store sales for every participating coffee shop. One Luke’s location in New York received 300 customers by 9:30 am when they usually receive only 50 on a normal morning. Netflix’s stock spiked 8% in the past week. Lastly, Gilmore Girls aficionados bonded together greater than ever before, with many raves about girls and coffee time before work as this is something they never would have coordinated without the incentive to experience Luke’s Diner in person. The tangible driver and iconic memorabilia throughout this entire experience is the 12 oz. cup of coffee. Power to it.

So why does any of this matter? Through one day of innovation and some serious logistical coordination, Netflix united all Gilmore Girl lovers through this 12 oz. cup of coffee and enhanced the deep nostalgic love for the show. Its success is created in large by social media’s ability to spread news quickly and effectively. Two days prior, on October 3, news of the transformation was released. Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Vanity Fair, local, and national new sources covered the details of the day and how any fan or interested reader could get his or her hands on a beloved cup of Luke’s coffee.

I, however, completely missed every single article due to the seasonal midterm grind. However, even midterms cannot stand in the way of the free spread of information. On the day of the debut, within minutes of the shops’ openings, and my subsequent wake-up, news of Luke’s diner had spread across the country and into my multiple newsfeeds. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram were inundated with posts similar to the above depictions. Social media facilitated widespread coverage of the event outside of traditional news sources, it advertised the upcoming premier of Gilmore Girls’ return, and it connected fans through their mutual love for the show and excitement for its return. This day also exemplified the power of social media to drive in store sales. Without viewing posts from my social network, I never would have known Luke’s Diners came to life across the country on October 5. Though I, myself, never made it to a location (despite CafeNation, a mere mile and a half stroll from campus was a host), many others visited local Luke’s to experience the unique offerings for themselves. As mentioned above, in store sales tripled or quadrupled in some locations over the Gilmore Girls hype.

Thus, the 12 oz. cup of coffee and the unique experience it can create is so powerful, that it can make almost anyone not only a morning person, but a Gilmore Girl lover.



Lastly, what do Gilmore fans have to look forward to after November 25?  This book.













  1. What a great marketing idea! I particularly like that they are “pop up” shops and only around for a short time. Give a chance to capitalize on the novelty without becoming tired.

  2. francoismba · ·

    I also missed the Luke’s Diner craze; however, it sounds like a great idea. The marketing campaign was not only a huge success for Netflix, but also was impactful for small independent coffee shops. These coffee shops also reaped the benefits of the marketing idea. It will be interesting to see if Netflix starts creating “pop up” scenes from other television shows.

  3. vicmoriartybc · ·

    As someone is a huge fan of coffee, Netflix, and cult classic TV shows, I think this is a brilliant marketing scheme. Although I was never a diehard Gilmore Girls fan (sorry!), I would absolutely have been one of the fans waiting outside at 6AM if I were. At first, I was surprised that they wouldn’t allow cell phones in the store, as I thought of all the missed opportunities for free digital marketing through Instagram posts. However, as I read on, I realized it makes perfect sense, as the cell phone ban comes from the Luke’s of the show. Allowing cell phones would probably just dilute the authentic experience the fans came for. This is a great post that explores a really fun marketing opportunity, and makes me want to watch more Gilmore Girls!

  4. Great article, Katie! I too woke up that morning confused as to why my instagram feed was filled with pictures by my friends all across the country seemingly all congregating at the same coffee shop. This was a really awesome marketing technique for netflix to capitalize on, and although I was never a Gilmore Girls fan, I’m considering becoming one now due to all the social media hype. And thanks netflix’s resurgence of the series, I can be!

  5. mikeknoll98 · ·

    I must say I have never watched a single episode of Gilmore Girls, but I have heard of this “Luke’s Diner” epidemic. Despite hearing of this mad run for Luke’s Diner, I never knew it was brought to fruition by Netflix. This is a great way of bringing a digital experience to life and to me seems like a business move a corporation like Disney would do. Overall great post and thanks for providing background on this!

  6. mashamydear · ·

    Now that you mention it, I think I did see some photos of Luke’s Diner on my Instagram back in early October and never really connected it! I think this was a fantastic marketing exhibition, especially when you consider how little it costs Netflix to supply cups, signs, aprons, etc. It’s a way smarter venture than having something like a coffee truck, and the positive effects the pop ups have on Netflix’s reach and on the independent coffee stops prove it. I think another reason behind the pop ups is to get people talking about Gilmore Girls again, since the show has been on Netflix since October of 2014. There’s been a bit of a time gap between then and the new episodes to air this November, so this is a great way to remind and excite people about the release!

  7. cmackeenbc · ·

    I thought this was one of the most ingenious marketing ploys I’ve seen in a long time. There is such a cult following around Gilmore Girls and it was the perfect idea to bring Luke’s diner to life to rekindle the attachment for fans old and new. I think the subsequent mess of social media posts raised awareness for the show, though I don’t think that anyone outside of Gilmore Girls fans actually went to the shops. My friend who attended, whose Instagram you featured, said it took over two hours in line to get inside and by then all free coffee was gone. There was coffee for purchase (which may explain the crazy sales increase for coffee shops that participated), but there was another line to wait in for that as well. I think this kind of one-time-only pop-up is great to drum up business and excitement but winds up being kind of a pain for participants. Nice post!

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