Coffee is one of my obsessions that doesn’t make it onto this blog as much but it’s definitely there running in the background. This isn’t just one of those “I like a coffee” in the morning things either, this is an enjoyment to the extent that I actually became excited when I heard about the Starbucks VIA launch events happening in the UK.
To give you a bit of perspective I actually hated coffee until I got my first job in a coffee shop of all places. I went on to spend a year or so working my way up as much as you can within a coffee shop until I got to a position where I was required to taste the coffees daily and received a ton of training about the coffee preperation process and how to recognise the subtleties in it’s tastes. At this stage I had the choice of travelling the country working in Start-Up coffee shops as a trainer or moving on to get myself trained in an area that I had my main career aspirations within. I chose the latter but my love and appreciation of coffee has continued to this day.
Snap back to last week and I was doing one thing or another on Facebook, when from the corner of my eye, I noticed an advert for a Starbucks VIA taste test in stores at the end of the week. I immediately registered my interest and think I ended up ‘sharing’ the event with a few other close friends and my Twitter feed.
First marketing lesson: Facebook avdertising works; even for something as apparently simple as tasting a new product.
Friday the 12th came along and I checked in on the Starbucks UK blog just to check that I had remembered the details right. They were offering a blind taste test of their new VIA range against their filtered coffees and anyone who did the test would also get a free drink.
Second marketing lesson: Make sure that your marketing major marketing messages reach all of your brands channels of communications.
After completing some work for the day I decided to call on a friend and head down to the local Starbucks. To be honest this was the only bit where initially the promotion wasn’t streamlined, whilst the signs were in store for the event I actually had to request the taste test and waited longer to get to it than my friend who had ordered a tea. I am aware that coffee shops can be limited in staff but if I weren’t so commited to the even they may have lost me here.
Third marketing lesson: Where possible, have a dedicated point of contact constantly on hand during special events.
Once they had made the filter and instant coffee I tasted them blind. I correctly guessed which was the filter coffee and as expected the flavour was better than the instant. However I was offered a discount on a trial package to take away with me. I reasoned that whilst it still hadn’t lived up to the full filter coffee taste it was still far ahead in front of traditional instant coffee, so I bought a 12 pack at probably 2 or 3 times the price of my usual instant coffee.
Fourth marketing lesson: If you can position your product against an alternative product type of a higher class; provided that you are offering a great product you can instantly jump in front of your direct competitorsof the same product type. This message can also move your product away from the typical price within your products field. It must be noted that using this method could potentially alienate some consumers whilst falling short of attracting clients from the upper level. You would have to be very confident in your offering and really know your client base first.
Fourth-and-a-half marketing lesson: Genuine Time limited special offers can lock in people who may not have initially purchased.
Whilst closing the sale of my box of instant coffee, the cashier offered me a special travel mug with space dedicated to carrying Strabucks VIA sachets. I politely declined and went on my way but I’m sure that many people would have taken up the offer on this higher priced product which directly related to the original offer. I also saved the free drink voucher for next time, so they will be getting me back another time, even though I usually drink fresh coffee elsewhere these days.
Fifth marketing lessons: If there is an upsell for instant coffee, you can always find another product to upsell alongside your product. Furthermore had I purchased this upsell, I would have a constant reminder of the brand within my home which you would expect to generate even more sales in the long term. Nobody want’s a Strabucks VIA mug with empty sachet holders, it’s just incomplete!
Finally I got home and sent out a quick update to my online followers who had commented on my earlier mention of the taste test. This is a great example of consumer consistency, by publically announcing that I was going to try the product, I felt compelled to immediately tell people my experience when I had.
Sixth marketing lesson: Enable consumers to publicise their interest in your product in as many forms as possible. Create facebook fan pages and events, include retweet buttons in your online content and encourage public conversation relating to your brand.
So there you have it, the entire Starbucks VIA UK launch process in review from the eyes of a customer. You’d be forgiven to think it ended there but of course, marketing never sleeps. This morning I woke up and opened the cupboard to see my new box of VIA coffee and have one with my breakfast. With no fresh coffee to directly compare it with (and the fact I’d purchased the stronger roast) it tastes great and I’m convinced.
As someone with an interest in marketing I decided to analyse the process in which I switched to a more expensive coffee brand in less than a week and this post is the result. Will my customer loyalty stand the test of time, who knows? But things are off to a good start. If you’re in the UK, you can still take the VIA taste test until Monday.
Seventh and final marketing lesson: When you create a great product and provide an experience for your consumer, they will often become the driving force behind your campaign for you.
You are nothing unless you are offering true value!