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Industry Insights
February 15, 2023
October 27, 2023

What Starbucks Can Teach You About Marketing and Branding Strategy

Gouri Sasidharan

What Starbucks Can Teach You About Marketing and Branding Strategy

February 15, 2023
October 27, 2023
Gouri Sasidharan


Work from home? 


Got your cup of coffee?

Of course, yeah!

Is that a MacBook? (joking!)

Hmm yes…?

Are you currently at Starbucks?


That’s the brand we’re talking about in this article and how Starbucks has become the ‘third place’ that its founders envisioned. 

Image source: Unsplash

Founded as a company that sold coffee beans, Starbucks became one of the largest chains of coffee shops worldwide.

There were up to 35,711 Starbucks stores worldwide in 2022.

The reason why it is this popular?

Its unique marketing and branding strategies surely have a huge role to play.

Keep scrolling to see our deep-dive into Starbucks’ brilliant campaigns. 

Table of contents


After Howard Schultz bought the company from its founding members in 1987 the company focused on creating Starbucks to be the “Third Place” — a place that exists between work and home.

It was the idea of the third place that created the new mission statement for Starbucks which is:

“To inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time”. 

Meaning, to create a comfort zone and a personal connection between the customers, the baristas, and the brand.

And did you know? Employees aren’t allowed to wear perfume so as to not interfere with the aroma of coffee inside the store! 

Image Source: medium.com

How Starbucks ensures brand consistency

1. Classic siren logo

Over the last 50 years, the Starbucks logo has gone through only four redesigns to create the iconic symbol that graces your exotic coffee cups today.

Image source: Logos-world.net

While revamping its logo in 2011, the company wanted something that appealed to a broader audience. Later, the words ‘Starbucks’ and ‘coffee’ were removed.

Image source: Logos-world.net

2. Brand consistency

You can spot it’s a Starbucks product at a single glance. From the atmosphere in their stores to their digital content and advertising, everything looks, sounds, and feels like Starbucks. The green and white colors define its logo and branding across every customer touchpoint.

Image source: coschedule.com

Every content they push out is clean and modern.

Even the Starbucks cups and tumblers you can buy in the store have a sleek, modern design to them.

Image source: Unsplash

Branding consistency is also a successful marketing strategy for Starbucks. You can have the same experience regardless of whether you walk into your local Starbucks and another one in a different city. Although Starbucks offers a variety of regional products and services, the prime offering and goal are the same in every location.

Keeping a consistent brand experience for your customers is the answer to bringing them back to your organization and creating brand advocates out of your customers.

3. Brand identity and technology

Starbucks introduced its mobile app in 2009. From just a payment feature, it then evolved to pre-ordering and pickup with the goal of avoiding the line at the stores.

To not lose the brand identity, in 2020, the concept of ‘third place’ was also shifted to the digital realm. When a customer places an order on the app, they hear the music that’s being played at the respective store.

So, the key to an effective customer experience is personalization where you keep your customers connected to your brand.

Image Source: Starbucks

Marketing mix of Starbucks

1. Product

Starbucks produces premium coffee, setting the bar high for its competitors. To stay on top of its game, the brand has to keep up and elevate its customer experience. They guarantee that every time they craft a high-quality premium cup, it will be perfect and get customers to keep coming back. Besides its beverages, Starbucks is known for its branded merchandise.

The ‘cup’ says it all

2. Price

With the quality of the coffee and the high-end technology and variety it provides, the price is justified well for a fine customer experience. Many customers believe that high-quality products come at a high cost and they’re willing to pay for it if their expectations are exceeded.

3. Place

Do you need a coffee fix? Starbucks is just around the corner. Each store has a great ambiance. With its accessibility and easy availability, it definitely positions itself as the “Third Place” between home and work it started out to become.

4. Promotion

Starbucks never misses an opportunity to engage its customers in innovative ways. The brand promotes its products on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, TV commercials, and print ads. The unique yet consistent messaging across every platform distinguishes the brand from the rest. 

Starbucks also offers reward programs to existing customers to encourage them to stay loyal to the brand. Through contests, hashtags, and other promotions, it employs a multi-channel promotional strategy. There are seasonal offers and special menus for every festive occasion. 

Keys to a successful marketing strategy for Starbucks

1. Personalization

Starbucks allows you to customize your drinks by offering various syrups, milk, and toppings. The company uses customers' names on their cups to create a personal connection and improve customer satisfaction.

Image source: glamour.com

What you can do

  • Study your target customers.
  • Consider how you can personalize your own product or service offerings to create a unique and memorable experience for your customers.
  • Give your customers the power to choose.

2. Social media marketing

In this digital world, having a social media presence is important. Even though Starbucks uses distinct tones on different platforms, its message remains the same. 

What you can do

  • Play along with the current trends or festive occasions that encourage customers to add photos of your product with creative taglines. Starbucks' seasonal beverage, pumpkin spice latte, that made its debut in fall 2003, still trends on social media every fall season. Here again, brand consistency is seen throughout the years.
  • Use storytelling. You can tell stories about how your product is sourced, your cause marketing campaigns, customer experiences, and more. 
  • And finally, you can always repurpose your content. What may be used as content on Facebook or Twitter can be turned into blog posts. 

3. Product innovation

Starbucks continuously innovates its menu to keep up with changing consumer tastes and trends. For example, they introduced seasonal drinks like pumpkin spice latte, eggnog latte, and peppermint mocha during the holiday season.

And again, Starbucks is proving that it is not just another coffee shop!

What you can do

  • Regularly analyze customer preferences.
  • Keep up with market trends to improve your product or service offerings.

4. Mobile app & loyalty programs

It is proven that selling to a new customer costs up to five times more than selling to a current customer. 

Starbucks has a fantastic way of rewarding customers who buy its products. Customers are given “stars” as part of the Starbucks Rewards program. Customers who earn stars receive free coffee and products. Aside from a free treat on their birthday, there are free refills, bonus rewards such as double-star days, and access to exclusive games and offers.

What you can do

  • Before launching a reward program, you should know the Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) and have a practical plan.
  • Build brand loyalty by incentivizing customer loyalty. 
  • To increase customer loyalty, shortlist your best employees to deal with your customers.

5. Strategic alliances

Starbucks has collaborated with the likes of Barnes & Noble, Nestlé, PepsiCo, iTunes, and other companies to run campaigns. This also helps the company expand its operations to different parts of the world.

What you can do

  • Understand strategic alliances and expand your network.
  • Brainstorm potential partners and outline alliance proposals. The deal between Starbucks and Barnes & Noble is a classic example of a strategic alliance. Starbucks brews the coffee. Barnes & Noble stocks the books. Both companies do what they do best while sharing the costs of space to the benefit of both companies.
  • Determine goals and devise plans.

6. Social responsibility

The three pillars of Starbucks’ social responsibility strategy are community, ethical sourcing, and the environment. Starbucks is committed to giving back to the community and supports various causes such as environmental sustainability, education, and health. They host local events and partner with local organizations to support these causes.

Studies show that when businesses promote social or environmental causes, 93% of customers have a more positive opinion of that company.

What you can do

  • It’s better to start with your employees first. Invest in them and their communities. For instance, Starbucks fosters a culture of inclusion, belonging, and opportunity for all of its partners. Employees at Starbucks are referred to as ‘partners.’
  • Support causes that are aligned with your brand values like how Starbucks took initiative to improve the lives of coffee farmers.
  • Cause marketing is another way that effectively maintains a good image while helping those in need. It involves a collaboration between a for-profit business and a non-profit organization for a common benefit. Reach out to a non-profit working for the cause you have selected and create a media strategy. You can use anything from point-of-sale displays to social or outdoor media depending on your budget.

Image source: joshmeah.com

Top Starbucks marketing campaigns

1. The red cup contest (#theredcupcontest)

Image source: cnet.com

Starbucks red cups have become a holiday tradition — they are the ultimate sign that Christmas is here. In 2014 and 2015, they posted a contest using #redcupcontest on Instagram. Customers had to share a photo with their red cups along with the #redcupcontest hashtag — for a chance to win one of five prizes. At the end of 2015, a photo was shared every 14 seconds on Instagram Starbucks, and in the first two days, it shows 40,000 entries throughout the contest.


Here, a good-hearted holiday-themed contest looks much more attractive. People were happy to take part in the campaign and use their best photos along with creative captions. This can easily boost the engagement rate of your brand.

2. Every name's a story

Starbucks partnered with Mermaid, an organization that supports trans and gender-diverse youth to launch their #WhatsYourName campaign.

The ad illustrates the story of a trans person’s transition through the chain’s tradition of asking customers their name and writing it on the cup. By respecting what people would like to be called, Starbucks hoped to highlight inclusivity and acceptance yet again. Within no time, social media was flooded with customers sharing their appreciation for the brand while also raising awareness for Mermaids. 


This Starbucks campaign not only delivered a powerful message but also won public support for the cause they have stood up for. Apart from focusing on inclusivity, it showcases how every person is being heard.

3. Taylor’s latte

Taylor Swift joined hands with Starbucks before the re-release of her album ‘Red’ in 2021. Starbucks provided fans with the opportunity to order a "Taylor's Latte" or a "Taylor's Version" drink from Starbucks and get the singer-songwriter's favorite drink: a Grande Caramel Nonfat Latte.

Image Source: Twitter

Starbucks locations played Taylor's version of the album as well as some of her other hits to celebrate this release.


With the perfect face that the audience can relate to for the campaign, Starbucks used influencer marketing in the right way. Also, creating content out of trends is important these days. It engages your audience and makes them aware of both the brand and the trend.

4. Tweet-a-coffee

Image source: designyourway.net

The Tweet-a-coffee campaign allowed customers to pay for a coffee for anyone on Twitter by tweeting @tweetacoffee and a friend’s handle. By doing this and linking their Starbucks account to their Twitter account, a $5 gift card would be given.

Over 27,000 users tweeted a coffee. The surge of activity brought in more than $180,000 in sales in just a few months.


This is where your customers turn to your marketers. Reward your customers to talk about you online, and you won't have to spend thousands of dollars on advertising. This campaign not only allowed Starbucks to get to know its audience and its Twitter profiles, but it also increased the brand's visibility.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, Starbucks is one of the most influential brands in the world. With its impeccable service, intimate ambiance, and of course, premium coffee, it stays true to the ‘ideal coffee place’ concept. 

From its emphasis on creating a unique customer experience to its innovative products, social media presence, and commitment to sustainability, Starbucks has carved out a distinct brand identity that sets it apart from its competitors. As a result of the company's marketing and branding strategies, it has continued to be successful, and its success can serve as an inspiration for businesses seeking to build successful brands.

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