Monday, May 25, 2009

Has Starbuck’s missed the mark with its new advertising campaign?


In the beginning of May 2009, Starbucks, once famous for not engaging in traditional advertising, launched a campaign to address an -8% decline in same store sales during the first quarter of 2009. (Miller, 2009)

According to CEO Howard Schultz, as quoted in the Wall Street Journal, “We know from our research that customers are not defecting away from Starbucks; they’re just coming less often or cutting out the occasion”. (Jargon, 2009)

Given that input, do you think this ad makes sense? Does it make you want to go into Starbucks more often?

Miller, C. (2009, May 19) New Starbucks Ads Seek to Recruit Online Fans. Retrived, May 25, 2009 from

Jargon, J. (2009, May 4) New Ads Will Stir Up Coffee Wars. Wall Street Journal, pB7.


  1. I don't think this ad really acknowledges the reason for which people are coming less often which, in this economy, is MONEY. Starbucks customers know they quality of the coffee and like the coffee since they haven't fully been defecting away from Starbucks. The bottom line is that they probably would rather make a coffee at home or take one at the office rather than spend money on it. I know i do and im a big Starbucks coffee customer but i made my coffee this morning and this ad does not make me want to go downstairs and walk to the corner of my block to purchase a Starbucks coffee.

  2. The ad made me wonder why the cup of coffee wouldn't be perfect the first time around and just reminded me why I don't go to Starbucks for coffee very often--because it always tastes burnt (I drink my coffee black).

    I wonder if any mass advertising would work for Starbucks at this point though. Starbucks came to prominence because it provided a quaint meeting place at a time when coffee shops weren't a part of American social life. Now that it is, and mom-and-pop coffee shops with equal or better ambiance are everywhere, I think the only thing that can save Starbucks is redesigning a lot of their stores, similar to the way some clothing retailers (Tommy Hilfiger, J. Crew, and others have remodeled some of their stores to resemble rustic Americana) so that they can compete with the mom-and-pops.

  3. Here's why i think the ad campaign as a whole work. Everyone loves Starbucks. So much so that people often refer to their coffee as 'starbucks'. That's the real value they have in the market. What i see Starbucks trying to do here is maintain their cred as the place that has the best coffee and puts the most care into their drinks. This, at the end of the day is what keeps people coming back, and when the recession is over people will keep paying those high prices for their coffee. Bottom line: It's a good way to strengthen the ties with your core, coffee drinking consumer.

  4. I agree with Laura and am not sure that this campaign would work given the current economy especially. I make my daily coffee at home; it tastes great and always comes out fine. (I have a Keurig.) It is considerably cheaper at less than fifty cents a cup, and with this economy, frankly, I'm interested in saving money.
    Additionally, the location of making coffee at home is perfect for me. I don't have time in morning to stop somewhere to get coffee on the way to work. What ad. campaign could Starbucks make that would compete?

    In general where I think this campaign fails is in its apparent lack of awareness to the current economic and cultural trends. It has become trendy to be cheap or at the very least save money. Starbucks whole vibe, if you will, is more decadent than thrifty. I think their campaign needs to refocus itself.


  5. I understand what Starbucks was trying to communicate in this ad. In Seattle, your local Starbucks knows your name, your usual order, often times other members of your family, etc...I really only come home (to Seattle) a couple times of year now and the Baristas still remember me. Seattle Starbucks have also followed this "if its not perfect, we will make it over" rule for years. In a Seattle Starbucks, if they ever make your drink incorrectly they re-make your drink (you get to keep the current one if you want), as well as give you a free drink coupon. They also give these free drink coupon's out if a line is long or they are doing remodeling in the store or anything like that. The real message they are sending is that they are on YOUR SIDE, they want you to enjoy the experience and the beverage and they go to extreme measures to satisfy the customers.

    This being said, the New York Starbucks experience is very different. I went to the same Starbucks every morning before class and the baristas never remembered me. The stores were often dirty or unstocked, and many of the baristas seem generally annoyed that you are even there in the first place. It feels like a completely different coffee chain.

    This ad campaign, to me, is beyond unsuccessful, because the actions of the employees speak much louder than the words of the advertisement. I was honestly offended when I say the advertisement because my experiences in new york city Starbucks communicate a conflicting message. The ads might as well say, "If we don't get your drink right, you should probably leave because we don't really want you in our stores anyways". For me, the difference between my home town Starbucks and my New York City Starbucks is depressing. Shultz and his team should focus on quality control and execution, to SHOW customers this message rather than through advertisements.

  6. In my opinion the ad is unsuccessful.

    The issue that CEO Howard Schultz points out in his quote that "customers are not defecting away from Starbucks; they’re just coming less often or cutting out the occasion” isn't solved by the ad. As others have said if they are aware that people are coming less often they should determine why. Is it really because the product is bad the first time? or is it more likely due to the economy?

    Another thing is that most restaurants/bars/cafe's offer good customer service. By that I mean that if your order is incorrect for any reason they try to please the paying customer by making it again or allow you to change your order. This ad states something that I believe most people would expect from most (if not all) establishments.

  7. I don’t drink coffee (surprise, surprise), though I do drink chai occasionally and sometimes more. And I drink it from Starbucks. Here is a quick history of my Starbucks use:

    The first time I ever had a Starbucks I was with my parents at some hotel. It was a Frappacino and it was good. But I don’t drink coffee. In college I was adamantly opposed to Starbucks, I favored mom and pop shops and was weary of chains and their business practices. Looking back, I was adamantly opposed to a lot of things. For better or worse, now shades of grey is all I see (thank you Billy Joel, who now on his third divorce, probably couldn’t agree more with his song lyrics):

    Shades of grey wherever I go
    The more I find out the less that I know
    Black and white is how it should be
    But shades of grey are the colors I see

    Okay, back to Starbucks and the advertisement under scrutiny. I’m not inspired by it at all. If I am purchasing a cup of chai (I’m not a coffee drinker, remember), then I expect it to be to my liking. In fact I’m like that with most things. If I as the customer am dissatisfied, I vocalize my opinion. I learned this from my dad. Surprisingly or not, when I was younger I had a hard time asking for what I wanted and voicing my needs. Things are mostly different now. This reminds me of the time I went out to dinner with a boyfriend (I was maybe 18 yrs. old) and when my meal came and I was dissatisfied I told my boyfriend I wanted to send it back. When he disapproved of my wish I said “But, my dad would let me do it.” Okay maybe I said “daddy” but I’m too embarrassed to fully admit to that. That incident was the beginning of a quite an education (here comes a small tangent): I have one dad and I don’t want/or expect any other man to fill that role again for me in this lifetime.

    So, I know it sounds a little bratty, but restaurants are service business; I have the right to complain. And while the waitress may be a nice person, she is being extra nice for the bigger tip. Unleash my cynicism….

    I recently stopped into a Starbucks in New Jersey, which as I understand from my classmates and my own experience, is a different beast than the ones in NYC. Lines are minimal and service is pretty friendly…although I’m annoyed that the baristas at the one around the corner from my apartment don’t know me by drink. There was a while that I was frequenting them daily. Why did I stop you may ask, probably the same reason why other people are staying clear…yes, I’m sure you’ve already guessed it…the economy.

    And when I did stop in I actually asked the barista if she thought the ads were having any effect. She said that she did not know, but that they were doing pretty good because of the office park across the street. She said the ads may be having an effect on some of the more under populated areas. Food for thought…

    So where does all this chatter leaves us:

    1. If people are concerned about cost, the ads do nothing to ease concerns and therefore do not make sense in response to CEO Howard Schultz’s quote in the Wall Street Journal: “We know from our research that customers are not defecting away from Starbucks; they’re just coming less often or cutting out the occasion”.

    2. No, the advertisements do not make me want to frequent Starbucks more.