I spilled my Pumpkin Spice Latte and now a bunch of ants are making brunch plans and doing yoga

pretty-starbucks-sunny-Favim.com-453687Starbucks is known for its consistent brand image with friendly baristas, green straws, “chill” coffeeshop vibe venues, and the same quality beverage at any location. What many people fail to recognize about Starbuck’s brand is their exceptional presence on social media. Starbucks has 13.4 million followers on Instagram, in addition to 36 million likes on Facebook, 11.9 million Twitter followers, and
large followings on Pinterest and Youtube.

So what exactly is Starbucks doing with their social media and digital business platforms? Rather than talk about the classic forms of social media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) I want to highlight a few different parts of Starbucks strategy.

Did you know you can order your drink before you get there?

The Starbucks Mobile Application is, in my opinion, genius. With over 20% of their business stemming from mobile wallet payments, I find the statement hard to refute. I think the success of the mobile app comes down to the convenience and accessibility of the platform.

The most useful attribute of the app is the ability to make a mobile order and to pay with your phone. You can upload money onto your account and scan your phone rather than paying with your debit card. You can also preorder your coffee, and the app will recognize what drinks are your favorites to make it easier for you. I found this particularly helpful over winter break when I became obsessed with a complicated drink. I was ordering a double (sometimes triple) shot of Espresso with one pump of Sugar-Free Vanilla syrup over ice in a Venti cup and would mix in a vanilla protein shake. Definitely something to try for coffee lovers- but also pretty high-maintenance to order. So, I turned to the mobile app and saved face both on my end and on the baristas end trying to process potentially my most complicated order to date.

In addition, using the mobile app to pay for your Starbucks order helps you generate points, and you can become a Gold Member in their rewards program. Their rewards program is featured on the app and will tell the user when they can cash in for a free pastry, or a discounted drink. The app also allows for music download and others features.

Beverages can have a personality too.

Starbucks has capitalized on giving their drinks a personality and identifying with the consumer. Think about the Pumpkin Spice Latte and what type of person comes to mind that might order that drink. Memes have been dedicated to the idea of this. High maintenance girls (especially teens) are presumed to be infatuated with Autumn for the Pumpkin Spice Lattes, breaking out their Ugg boots, and wearing leggings with oversized sweaters all the time. Now, this isn’t to be assumed of every girly-girl, but I’d be surprised if you told me a different type of persona came to mind.

Moving on, Starbuck’s holiday cups have created a connection to the consumer in the Winter months. Starbucks first introduced the holiday season cups as a depart from the starbucks-coffee-cup_1478786087547_49549819_ver1.0_640_480norm of crisp, white cups to a bright red color. Starbucks realized through photos on social media that many customers were doodling on these red holiday cups, so they ran with the idea. Starbucks allowed consumers to draw up designs and printed them as their holiday cups this past year. They received over 1,200 submissions from 13 different countries via Instagram. In addition to the festive cups comes festive drinks to match, only offered for a limited time.

Let’s talk about the secret menu which, as it turns out, is not so secret. It doesn’t seem like Starbucks is concerned that their “secret” menu is revealed – probably because they made it known on purpose. I think the most well known “secret” drinks are the purple and pink drinks youScreen Shot 2017-03-14 at 6.38.28 PM.png may have seen featured in your Snapchat or Instagram feeds. I tweeted about this article that basically guarantees you Instagram likes if you order these Ombre colored drinks on the not-so-secret menu. The drinks pictured to the right are combinations of the different colored drinks from the secret menu. I’m not sure how good it would taste to be mixing the different drinks, but do it for the gram.

Can I get a name for that order?

The last thing I want to highlight is the fact that everyone still acts so surprised when the friendly Starbucks barista misspells your name. Has anyone ever thought about the fact that maybe they do this on purpose? Starbucks wants you to Snapchat your friends that the cute barista spelled your simple name Katie as “Caty”. Better yet, Instagram it with a witty caption for your followers to identify with and comment about that time the barista didn’t know that you typically spell Matt with two t’s. Why? Because your friends who see the post may think about how good an iced Caramel Macchiato sounds right now and head to their local Starbs to buy one.

I must admit, I don’t know for a fact that any Starbucks manager promotes the misspelling of names, but it is a theory. I’m not the only one who holds it, either.

Starbucks as a whole has a consistent brand image on all of their social media platforms and uses each platform for a distinct purpose. Combined with the Starbucks stores and personal interactions, the social media platforms allow for Starbucks drinkers to feel connected to the brand and be a part of the Starbucks community. Whether the use of the social media platforms is posting a picture of your Starbucks coffee to celebrate your first day of your job on Instagram, or Snapchatting your friends about how it’s your fourth shot of espresso that day (estimated about three weeks subsequent), Starbucks brand will be sustained by the consumer through social media for years to come.

P.S. When explaining this blog post to my Starbucks-loving mother, she told me thaIMG_4770t Starbucks is now using pastel colored cups for Spring time, and followed up with this picture. I’ve seen a few of these in my Snapchat and Instagram stories already – have you? Upon looking into it further, I found a news release in which Starbucks stated that for a very limited time, you can get your hot beverages in a blue, yellow, or green cup – some with the hand-drawn designs including an umbrella and a sun. Other cups feature a blank white circle canvas to encourage the user to doodle and share on social media. I’m sure you will see plenty of these Spring cups on your social media channels over the next few days before the cups become obsolete. Another great tactic to bring people into the store, which will then be sustained by Starbucks drinkers on social media.





  1. aecharl · ·

    This post was extremely entertaining and particularly well-written. I had no idea that the reason Starbucks was inspired to put designs on their Christmas red cups was from people doodling on their cups and posting them to social media. I hadn’t considered the theory about baristas misspelling names on cups as a marketing tactic to generate publicity but I wouldn’t be too surprised if there was some truth behind it…companies have done way more outlandish things in the past to gain further brand publicity. I always do find it ironic that teen girls, who are often the most health-conscious consumers, have become the demographic that immediately comes to mind when a pumpkin spiced latte is mentioned because it is such an unhealthy drink. Clearly Starbucks is doing something (or a lot of things) right!

  2. alexisteixeiraa · ·

    Hilarious title and equally as enjoyable post. I just saw their new spring cups and they are so cute that I would want to buy Starbucks just for the cups. I had heard of the misspelled names conspiracy theory; however, it is shocking that this kind of error caused so much attention and free advertising. I have always wondered why they have remained such a dominant company in specific areas of the country. For instance there are dispersed across the country vs. D&D is only on the east coast. This can partially be attributed to their brilliant marketing. Overall awesome post!

  3. CarbNatalie · ·

    I never drink starbucks but the spring cup made me want to because it looks so pretty! I think this post was great (and hilarious) at exemplifying starbucks’ brand image and personality as well as their digital endeavors.

  4. lesleyzhou · ·

    Lauren, your post was an easy and fun read. While I knew I could pay for my drinks via their mobile app, I had no idea we could put in our specific orders for pick up – what a great way to increase operational efficiency as well as customer satisfaction! Like I had mentioned in my WeChat presentation, I definitely agree that Starbucks has been leveraging mobile payment to their advantage because not only does it make the purchase process easier, but it also slyly prompts consumers to keep repurchasing due to “leftover Starbucks money” on their app (example: I’ll always end up having $2~ left in my account, which isn’t enough for a tall latte, but since I know the money is non-refundable, I always think there’s more value in continuing to top up rather than leave the money to be).

  5. ghakimeh · ·

    Philosophical question: If I order from the app directly, will the barista still misspell my name?? Great post, I never honestly thought about all the branding/exposure that Starbucks gets from their holiday cups. In elementary schoo, I do remember instantly recognizing that a teacher went to Starbucks simply because they had a red cup during the winter. I think about all the press Starbucks got from people protesting the lack of ornaments during the holdays of 2015; must’ve been great marketing for Starbucks! I also hear a lot about Starbuck’s app for payment, seems like a great tool to make it easy for people to pay/order well in advance, making it easy for people to get their daily (or twice-daily) fix!

  6. mollyshields44 · ·

    I loved this post, Lauren! I thought you did a good job of explaining how Starbucks, traditionally a brick and mortar business, has expanded into the digital realm and has leveraged social media to their advantage. They certainly do a good job of creating the “Starbuck’s community” and they keep bringing consumers back with social contests and traditional promotions, such as the holiday cups. The problem with this increased retention is of course long lines which is why the Mobile-Order and Pay app was created. However their technological innovation may actually be causing the same problem just in a different place. I found this recent article that summarizes the problems that Starbucks has faced since introducing the app. Essentially so many people are using the app that there is congestion at the pick up bar and people are having to wait just as long but along a different part of the operations (https://www.forbes.com/sites/greatspeculations/2017/02/02/starbucks-success-with-mobile-order-and-pay-is-too-much-of-a-good-thing/#2145f78443da). Interesting that the solution may just be creating a new problem! Overall I really enjoyed your blog as it was funny, information, and interesting!

  7. Nice post, and definitely a relatable one for me as a Starbucks aficionado. The mobile app has been a lifesaver for me when I get a late start on the day and don’t have time to make coffee at home. I’ve actually read that their app has been so successful that they are considering monetizing it by allowing other retailers to use the tech.

    I think it’s pretty clear that Starbucks embraces their image (somewhat snooty, white collar, and liberal), as they know who their market is and where they make their money.

  8. ItsUlker · ·

    The title for the post is just amazing! I wrote about Starbucks’ approach to Social Media a few weeks ago too, and I also find them amazing at what they do. I love that you focused on the mobile app – it is definitely the center piece of their digital strategy, and I like how you highlighted some of its not so obvious capabilities. I visited their office couple weeks ago on BC TechTrek, and we discussed the app a lot. They repeatedly said that they don’t consider themselves a digital business, however, with a such a succeful app I think they might as well! Mobile payment and mobile order have helped them increase both the number of orders an average user makes and the average value of an order too. Plus, tying it to rewards makes it a great customer engagement and retention tool. I particularly like the little “challeneges” they introduce in the app that allow you earn extra points – somehow I seem to fall for them every time!

  9. Great post–the title was really catchy and drew me in! I thought this was a great post on how Starbucks utilizes social media and technology apart from the standard apps we typically think about. I think what makes Starbucks so successful is how they have focused on differentiation and high quality, which includes their high quality digital strategy. Now that Starbucks has decreased sizes (the tall looks like a child’s cup now) I wonder if their strong brand awareness and digital presence will be enough to sustain higher prices and lasting customers. I also had a theory that they misspelled customers’ names wrong on purpose to create hype and spread awareness, so glad to hear I’m not the only one!

  10. Great post and enjoyable read. In Israel we don’t have Starbucks unfortunately. However, my friends who travel to the U.S. or Europe, always make sure to take pictures of themselves at a Starbucks store or drinking their drink and post it on SM, and they get so many likes and comments! When I saw the holiday cups come out I went to the store to get the drink, and found myself drinking more Starbucks than I did before. They do a great job on the app and marketing wise, and I feel that these marketing tactics you mentioned with the Ombre colored drinks and misspelling of the name, must definitely drive up sales.

  11. dcardito13 · ·

    Your awesome title definitely captured my attention, as I can clearly tell that it was amongst one of the favorites by reading our classmates’ comments above. This was an extremely well-written post that highlighted on many of Starbucks’ competitive advantages through a fun and unique lens. I definitely want to find the ombre-designed drinks, as I would totally fall into the trap of buying the product so I can post a picture of it on my Snapchat. My favorite point that you made was about the potentially purposeful mis-spelling of names on the cup just to get the attention of other people. If this is done intentionally, I think it’s a power move by the company to gain more attraction and recognition from a greater mass of people.

  12. Nice post. I like the “fake misspelling” theory. It would be brilliant if true.

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