Starbucks Brews Competition, One Tweet At A Time 10


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I triple dog dare you. Starbucks knows you can’t resist a competition.

Which is why today, Tuesday May 19th, they are challenging you to locate their new billboards in six major U.S. cities and be the first to tweet a photo of the ad.

Starbucks, like any other smart brand, is embracing the social media phenomenon that is Twitter. Twitter, the free micro blogging site, allows users to share their thoughts, musings, or in this case, sightings, with the online community.

There is no doubt that Twitter is the online manifestation of “word of mouth,” and Starbucks recognizes that word of mouth reviews are among the most powerful. Just ask any restaurant that has been slammed on the review site Yelp. In an interview with Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times, Chris Bruzzo, Starbucks’ vice president for brand, content and online, says:

“The idea for the Starbucks photo contest came from watching what people already do on Facebook and Twitter . . . Each year, people race to post the first photos of Starbucks shops decorated in red for the holidays on Flickr, people vie to post photos that include multiple Starbucks stores in the same shot. It shows a level of connection to our brand that we wouldn’t have concocted on our own.”

Starbucks can quantify the connection to their brand by their 183,000 followers on Twitter and their 1.5 million fans on Facebook. The company plans to continue their social media efforts, with a new YouTube video series featuring coffee experts talking about what makes Starbucks coffee unique.

The company has been hugely successful with YouTube in the past. Its biggest success being the November 2008 election advertising campaign (which started on TV and spread across the Web) that offered free coffee to voters on November 4th (RaceTalk’s own Ben Haber covered the news).

In her New York Times piece, Claire Cain Miller describes:

“On the Saturday before the presidential election, Starbucks sponsored a single 60-second television commercial on “Saturday Night Live” advertising a coffee giveaway on Election Day. Starbucks then posted the video online. By Tuesday, it was the fourth-most-viewed video on YouTube, and people were mentioning Starbucks on Twitter every eight seconds.”

With new ad campaigns utilizing Twitter and YouTube, and a massive following on Facebook, Starbucks is hoping to ride the social media train all the way to the bank against a new, golden-arched rival.

In case you’ve been hiding under a rock to miss its advertising barrage –McDonalds is now offering several varieties of coffee drinks  and is putting their marketing dollars behind traditional television, print, radio and billboard ads (which Starbucks continues to leverage as well) to entice coffee fanatics to the home of the Big Mac instead.

So while it may be a level playing field on the advertising front, Starbucks clearly has a “social” leg up in the brewing coffee wars.


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