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Marketing to Type-As: Thank You, Starbucks

July 2014 Marketing

I recently consumed 10 iced lattes in 10 days. I don’t like iced lattes. Why on Earth did I do such a silly thing (and pay nearly $5 a day for it)? I did it because I was presented with the challenge. Just the wording used in the e-mail subject line, “Star Challenge”, got me going. I live for a challenge, I never pass up a dare, I do silly things just to prove to myself that I can and when I’m done I rarely even stop to recognize my accomplishment because I am already on to the next challenge. In the wake of their recent price increase, which has some customers saying they’re breaking up with the coffee chain (I will believe it when I see them all walking into their offices with a gas station coffee) I would like to applaud Starbucks for being the only brand that I have come across to market to my competitive side, thereby winning my love and loyalty forever and ever…or until the challenges stop.

I know many people out there who are just like me. We love the thrill of the chase and we crave a little excitement in our day-to-day lives. Is life seriously so dull that I can only get such excitement from a Starbucks challenge? No, but no other company markets to my competitive nature, and in doing so Starbucks has secured my business for at least 10 more days. Starbucks gives me something no other brand does, a chase. For those 10 days I have a mini-goal to accomplish, to drink an expensive iced beverage that I normally would not consider ordering. It sounds silly when I talk about it out loud with someone, yet I still find myself running in for a “happy-hour” drink or hitting up 5 different locations in 5 days, all in the name of those bonus stars! Call it crazy, but for Starbucks it is working. I clearly am not the only person they have sucked in with these challenges or I doubt they would still be doing them.

Marketing a challenge, or a chase, is a creative way to create brand loyalty. This method is obviously not going to win everyone over, but I think it definitely targets an underserved audience, people who like to feel as though they are chasing after something in order to maintain an interest in that thing. I can admit to drinking those stupid lattes with a smile on my face because I knew I was one iced beverage closer to victory. A very small victory, but a victory nonetheless. I feel joy when I see a challenge in my inbox and for this reason I remain loyal to Starbucks. There might be “better” or cheaper local coffee shops right next door, but I cannot stray from Starbucks because they keep me so interested in chasing after those stars and judging by the line every morning, I am not the only one they’ve hooked.



About the author

Mary DeBoni is a Senior Pricing Analyst at Wiglaf Pricing. Before coming to Wiglaf Pricing, Mary spent her post-graduate-school years working as a data analyst and as an adjunct instructor of Economics and Statistics at Moraine Valley Community College and Richard J. Daley College. Mary is a member of the Professional Pricing Society. She holds a BA in Economics from Michigan State University and an MA in Economics from The University of Detroit Mercy.

Mary DeBoni
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