July 2008


So this is how advertising works:

  1. Half listen to ads on commute radio, trying to dodge early morning traffic jams.
  2. Go about your business, feel like you’ve done a good day’s work, think about taking a break, see a familiar sign and pull over.
  3. Walk towards door, notice new posters in yellows and browns, think “Nice”.
  4. Inside see friendly, calming green being sported by the employees, think “That’s new”.
  5. Scan the blackboard for what’s on offer and see new beverage, think “Hhhm, might try that”.
  6. New beverage arrives in very own branded cup (“made with 45% fewer carbon emissions”).
  7. Put two and two together and realise I’ve been Starbucked.

I don’t really mind, because I believe good marketing deserves its rewards. Rolling out a new product and not supporting it with all you’ve got would be wasting the only opportunity to make a good first impression. Whether the new Vivanno smoothie will fill the gap of hot sandwiches over the lunch hour remains to be seen. Touted as healthy, we all know it contains ingredients far too addictive for that, especially if you add a shot of espresso as I did. On top of which, I’d like to see how they get “one whole banana” in each of these little sample cups grass-skirted baristas were handing out yesterday!

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Whoops, there goes another American brand… as the Belgian owners of Stella Artois snatch up Budweiser. Perhaps it’s not such a bad match, as beer critics suggest one brand is pretty much as bland as the other, which would explain why each relies so heavily on big advertising spend to differentiate and create an image of ‘cool’ or ‘premium’ or ‘traditional’ horse-heritage or whatever the current strategy calls for.

 

Joining those other non-US brands like IBM’s PCs (China) and 7-Eleven (Japan), the latest brand to change hands will have to focus on local market share erosion as national pride is likely to dig in its heels. The point is to reassure and sustain mass interest, as there is nothing more powerful than the backlash from alienated loyal consumers.

 

With Starbucks’ marketers coming out in force with traditional media campaigns (radio and press ice-cube ads), online loyalty programs (sign-up and get free stuff) and more sampling than ever, plus a PR campaign that boosted the share price upon the announcement that 600 stores were closing (weird that), you might wonder who is stalking the Mermaid’s lair.

 

One thing is clear, any company tightening its marketing purse-strings in an economic downturn needs to fire its accountancy department. Now, more than ever, is the time to use horse sense with your marketing budget and consistently remind your target audience that you are still out there.