Notes from “Starbucks: Beyond the Big Idea” at #sic2012

Starbucks: Beyond the Big Idea #sic2012

Photo by @NancyPadberg

Beyond the big idea
Dan Beranek, Dir of Global Dig. Mktg (@dantronic) and Ryan Turner, Director of Global Social Media & Creative (@wryanturner) – Starbucks

Social is moving beyond speaking to everyone the same way – we can speak to people on a personal level.

shannon kelly @trendscaping

Great examples @Starbucks of genuine & authentic engagement that’s aligned w/ brand. Elevate the everyday to extraordinary.#SIC2012

It was a simple tweet:  :)  – 1508 retweets with just an accidental tweet

People totally started retweeting how nice starbucks was, industry said geniuses! And it was an accident!

They had stumbled on the success they had with that tweet – its what people come to the Starbucks brand for.

How Starbucks is unique

What helped them reach that level of brand love?

Starbucks is everywhere. In grocery stores, in their own retail stores, in airports –  its part of peoples routine, but mainly what matters is the direct emotional engagement: the personal connection with a barista. And how they connect with folks digitally thru social is similar.

Starbucks is a networked brand. They are a presence in peoples’ lives.

Coming into contact with the brand is frequent – they elevate everyday moments everyday. And it works!

Looking at Facebook, Starbucks has 53 million fans. 3 million twitter followers, 20k followers on Pinterest.  On Instagram – close to a million.  Their Google+ channel has 611k followers.

And the most successful, MyStarbucksIdea – half a mil customers pushing business ideas. Loyalists continue to generate great ideas. Starbucks responds & interacts with the participants – if they won’t do an idea someone has, they talk to them about it and why they can’t do something, not just ignore or ditch the idea. Personal connections are what makes the difference.

Getting beyond the big idea

Starbucks has four roles they address within their team:

INSIGHTS – gathered socially, data analytics, research

PLANNING – how they go to market

CREATIVE –  everything on social is infused with creative and community management on a daily basis: FB posts, tweets, Pinterest images etc.

ENGAGEMENT – baristas connecting at ground level

It’s ALL for the purpose of resonating.   Resonance = Relevance x Reach

Photo is © Starbucks Coffee Co.

INSIGHT: valentines day is more than romantic love. SBUX saw the opportunity to celebrate every love – barista and customer expressing love to everyone. A guy brings coffee to cancer patients at the hospital. Watch this video.

Photo is © Starbucks Coffee Co.

Last years holiday season – “red cups coming soon” picture with a knit scarf on Facebook.

Photo is © Starbucks Coffee Co.

Red cups generate so much excitement that holidays were coming… In one campaign, people just started taking pics everywhere to join in a social push.

Elections: “Elections divide us when they should unite us…” SBUX said We have a gathering place for differing viewpoints. What can we do?  “What if we all cared enough to vote?” campaign gave out free coffee on election day to voters.

Photo is © Starbucks Coffee Co.

Photo is © Starbucks Coffee Co.

Pumpkin Spice Latte – people are startlingly nuts about the Pumpkin Spice Latte each year.  Rad video about SBUX – Bring Back PSL Days.  “Sweet P SL Pageant”  – Watch this mockumentary on YouTube: Very successful video campaign.

Starbucks also did a great FB campaign nationwide – “Bring PSL to your town a week early”. (

They built a Facebook game for towns across the USA to be the first town in the US to get PSL.  Leavenworth WA won this year

Not every campaign needs to lead with a product message.

Photo is © Starbucks Coffee Co.


  • Look at their SRCH social scavenger hunt with Lady Gaga (
  • Mysterious QR codes started it out.
  • The scavenger hunt went from QR codes to tweet stream to FB page, to TwitPic… bouncing users and engaging them all over the place. It was great!
  • Seventh round caused people to plan their days around new rounds released, making social teams, with 20 mins of interaction per user!
  • No paid endorsement, no paid media.
  • Led people from fans to super fans.
  • Fun example of an engaging contest – its really about participation, value of having fun, no agenda.

One of the key qualities of SBUX’s social content is hand made. Markers rather than photoshop, etc.  The human touch.

Photo is © Starbucks Coffee Co.

One community manager made ice cream sandwiches with grahams and their ice-cream and snapped a picture. Also there was another successful FB pic of ice cubes in fun heart shapes, etc.  Not just markers.

They are looking to always show product in new ways. Tell little stories in one post.  Can you capture the richness of the emotional landscape in a social post? One photo? One tweet? How?

Very successful campaign: You know its fall when the PSL is back!  331871 likes!

Sometimes the offer is to communicate a deal. Great concept for buy 2 get 1 free:

Photo is © Starbucks Coffee Co.

Sometimes its just a pure brand gesture.  Just a graphic with nice type reading “Do more of what makes you happy” – not “overly starbucks” just personal and engaging.

Photo is © Starbucks Coffee Co.

At 4th of july they did an #invisible free coffee campaign.  Twitter would blow up with ‘free coffee’, so how do we not lose the theme in all the retweets…  they decided to use it ON THE PRODUCT. (sharpie written on cup)  Great concept for a social post.

Photo is © Starbucks Coffee Co.

Both the #Invidivisible and the #BFF campaigns went out at same time, and they BOTH worked.

Also, community desire about Bringing back quotations on the cups. Cost prohibitive to reprint all the cups, So they use PINTEREST “TWISI” (the way i see it) board on Pinterest

Photo is © Starbucks Coffee Co.

Another subtle engagement starter: ‘when was the last time you talked to your best friend?” Facebook post – with red cup issuing a subtle challenge:

Photo is © Starbucks Coffee Co.


Starbucks feels strong that community management and creative should be tightly synced. You can have an army of organizers, but make a personal connection (not with everyone) –  but a way where lots of people can see it. They picked up a great tweet Demi Lovato  said, and because of a directed reply and clever idea,  got them their highest retweets.

Photo is © Starbucks Coffee Co.

Someone complained about Starbucks taking away Soy, so they looked at her profile, saw she liked haiku. They replied that way to connect with their community and it really worked. (

An athlete Chad Ochocinco lost his starbucks gold card and made a video about his gold card being taken. They saw that and participated in an authentic way.

Also Pinterest has turned out to be a great conversational piece. Very IMAGE driven.  So they can have new conversations with users in a new way.


Starbucks says [we] Use our scale for good.

Photo is © Starbucks Coffee Co.

They did a video promoting job creation ( and people donated 5 bux to All donations go to create jobs in communicates across America..  They gave out INDIVISIBLE wristbands to tie in with their campaign. Went AWESOME.

Question from the audience:


They say FB is most important. Amt of time people spend is so much greater.

They are reaching out to Pinterest, Tumblr too, but FB gets most attention right now…


Thoughts? Hit me up on Twitter at @robchristianson and let me know what you think.


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