A Starbucks “Gotcha!”

  • Jul 18, 2006

When Seattle-based Starbucks Coffee wanted to increase awareness of the Starbucks Holiday Red Cup, it took its campaign to the streets. “We designed replicas of the vente coffee cups,” says Drew Livingston, “chief ideation officer” at Free Car Media (www.freecarmedia.com), which itself is a nontraditional marketing company. When Starbucks approached the California-based firm, Livingston developed the idea of attaching the cups to the roofs of cars and driving around in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and, of course, Seattle. “It looked liked the driver put the cup on the roof of the car and then forgot about it,” he says.

Some Good Samaritans alerted the drivers to their error and were rewarded with a $5 Starbucks card. Livingston says each Brand Ambassador drove a targeted route for eight hours a day for seven days in each of the four cities; 19 million total impressions were made and the promotion produced favorable reviews on several Internet sites and garnered the company a spot on MSN. “;It grew organically,” Livingston says, adding that the Internet exposure was not too surprising because consumers control the content on many sites.

The campaign reflected the goals of Free Car Media. “Rather than mass marketing, this is targeted marketing,” Livingston says. The message is about the consumer, rather than about the product. “We bring the message in a non-traditional way that the customer would never expect,” he says. Most successful guerrilla marketers, says Levinson, know the value of the customer experience: “Great customer service is whatever the customer says it is.”

Starbucks cup left on car