Starbucks Branding Strategy: Think Out of the Cup

| Branding

‘Starbucks App’- every hour around 83 people search this word.

Now, you might think that why someone would search for a coffee shop app. Well, that’s the result of the disruptive branding strategy of Starbucks. Although it’s pretty much impossible to compete with their marketing innovation, we can use some strategies to build your own multi-million-dollar company.

Here we will dissect what, how and why a coffeehouse took some steps that made it into Starbucks.

Offer Something that Customers won’t Be Able to Refuse

The trick is to give customers something that others are not giving. Starbucks applied this principle perfectly. So, let’s go through their core strategy.

Brand Equity is their Firm-Specific Advantage

What would you say if I told you that Starbucks doesn’t actually sell coffee?

Yes. You heard it right. Starbucks actually sells the experience in its shops. They are based on the principle of ‘third place’.

Now, what is this third place?

Third place is the place between your home and work.

If you see the mission statement of Starbucks, then you’ll get a clearer picture. It goes like this:

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

Starbucks wants the customers to feel a personal connection to the baristas and the organization. In marketing jargon, this is called brand equity.

Handling a Difficult Target Market

Starbucks has a difficult target group. The brands’ target group has the following features:

  • 01, Middle to Higher Income group people
  • 02, Are looking for the best thing with a high price

This target group can easily own a coffee maker and brew coffee at their home. Even that would cost less than Starbucks.

So, Starbucks focused on the third place and gave this target group a place to chill and interact. They gave the environment where you can order up a coffee and work on your laptop. And after working you can chill a bit by taking more drinks.

The 360 Degree Branding of Starbucks

Because of this philosophy, you’ll find a similar experience in all the Starbucks stores.

Be it the app or the website or the Facebook page, you’ll notice that they’re trying to become the ‘Third place’. You’ll find the friendly customer service present in all their social media platforms. As a result, they have a high engagement rate, high app download and most of all high sales.

Just because of this 360-degree approach of selling experience, they are seeing success in all of their product lines.

You can read also multi branding strategy


Plan perfectly. So, even handling a difficult customer base won’t be difficult.

Create your own brand equity. Figure out what your customers want and what you can deliver. Deliver consistently. As a result, your brand will give out a uniform message.

Supporting Strategies to Strengthen the Core Offerings

Starbucks did not become a 90 Billion Dollar company just by selling the coffee shop environment. There were other supporting activities that helped it to grow. Activities that made Starbucks more and more different than its competitors.

Here, we’ll explore some marketing strategies that Starbucks is using. You can borrow some of these strategies to improve your business.

Loyalty Programs Help a Lot

In marketing, there’s a saying that 20% of the customers make 80% of the profit. These customers are loyal customers.

Starbucks took this into consideration and created a loyalty program. The Starbucks Rewards Program gives incentives to loyal customers. The rewards are given in these sectors:

  • 01, Free in-store refills
  • 02, Free products
  • 03, Extra offers and discounts

Any customer can get different offers via the app or in-store purchase after a certain amount of spending.

Uses Social Media to Build Relationships

Nowadays, social media is considered as a blessing for businesses. A business can boom only with the help of social media platforms.

Starbucks is using the most out of social media to increase customer reach. They are doing two things basically:

  • 01, Repurposing the contents
  • 02, Taking customer interaction to a new level

Starbucks creates 2 contents every week on average. That’s a lot considering the fact that the contents are totally new ideas. So, they break down large content into smaller parts and reuse those across different social media channels.

But here’s the catch-

Starbucks does it smartly. They don’t just copy the posts word by word. The posts are changed a bit according to the social media vibes. You can understand their customer interaction levels in two steps.

  • 01, Go to any Starbucks posts on social media
  • 02, Read out the comments and replies

Soon you’ll discover yourself laughing at the pun comments and replies. That’s not all. If you follow the twitter page of Starbucks, then you’ll see that they’re tweeting about their customers.

Activates Fear of Missing Out

This is one strategy of Starbucks that you can easily recreate. This fear of missing out drives customers the most. For example, Starbucks Holiday Cups are some limited-edition cups. These cups are created only during holidays and each of the editions is different.

As a result, customers try their best to keep at least one-holiday cup into their collection.

Starbucks takes this into a whole new level by introducing limited-time flavors. Because of that, they find it difficult to handle hordes of customers.

The UI/UX is Out of the World

Remember the first line of this article? Let me explain the gravity of the situation. Around 2000 people search for Starbucks App daily. Now, what is in this app that so many people download it?

The answer is a great UI/UX.

The Starbucks app has the following attributes:

  • 01, End user-friendly design and experience
  • 02, Loyalty program full of engagement
  • 03, Easy mobile transaction and ordering
  • 04, Integration among different platforms

You’ll understand how good the app is with a few scenarios.

Scenario 1: You’re sitting in a Starbucks store and suddenly an unknown song starts playing. If you like the song, then you can just open up the app to know its name.

Scenario 2: You woke up late and you have a meeting within hours. You open up the app click on the order ahead tab. As you arrive at the store, voila your pumpkin spice latte is ready to take away.

This level of personalization gave Starbucks a competitive edge over others. The result is a huge volume of app downloads.

A huge credit of this success also goes to the UI of the app. The app layout is

  • Simple, yet elegant
  • Appealing to the user

That’s not all-

The “pop-up” menus give users easy navigation around the app. Moreover, the way its ‘Find Store’ feature uses the app is admirable.


If you want to take your business to Starbucks level, then take care of a few things at first.

Reward your loyal customers. By doing so, you’ll bring them in again and again. Keep a friendly connection through Social Media platforms. So, your customers will feel important.

Add sudden and short-time features. As a result, you’ll get hordes of customers knocking at your door.

Make sure that your UI/UX is incredible. It’s a natural instinct of humans to judge on first look.

Think Out of the Cup

Following others can help you to reach a certain stage. After that, you’ll need some innovation of your own. Bring in new ways so that your company can become the next multi-billion-dollar company.

Maybe one day people will read the branding story of your company.

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