Starbucks adds flavor with its latest product offering

Corey duBrowa, VP of global comms; Alan Hilowitz, senior manager of global consumer PR; Michele Waits, director of US packaged coffee; Jennifer Berger, director of marketing and advertising services

Company

Starbucks

Campaign

Natural Fusions launch

Agency mix

BBDO, Catapult, Digitas, Blast Radius, Edelman

Lead agency

BBDO

In-house team

Corey duBrowa, VP of global comms; Alan Hilowitz, senior manager of global consumer PR; Michele Waits, director of US packaged coffee; Jennifer Berger, director of marketing and advertising services

What Starbucks has gained in retail awareness in recent years, it lacks in market share, with 4% of the 65 billion cups of coffee consumed annually in the US. In its latest attempt to boost this figure, the company conducted research showing consumers want it to produce flavored coffee.

The result, a new Natural Fusions line, not only presented Starbucks the challenge of debuting a product to a broad audience, but also differentiating it after saying in the past it wouldn't mass produce a flavored coffee with artificial ingredients.

Amy Kavanaugh, EVP at Edelman, the company's PR agency, says the products' natural ingredients are a differentiating factor, resonating throughout the integrated campaign this fall.

Rather than focus on sampling at grocery stores, a main tactic for Starbucks' launch of instant coffee line Via last year, the team sought word-of-mouth buzz by sampling hundreds of influencers, including chefs, wedding planners, and bloggers. The company also worked with BBDO to execute its most comprehensive ad campaign, which launched in September.

"It's a way of reaching customers via CPG [consumer packaged goods] channels and at retail," says Alisa Martinez, communications manager at Starbucks, who adds the team "put a great deal of muscle behind the PR effort."

Kavanaugh explains this launch differs from Via's in that it displays greater consistency and integration across channels.

"Via was a learning experience about crossover between in-store and CPG channels, and what was better for customers," she says. "This reflects Starbucks taking a more holistic approach and offering a more consistent experience."

The effort also includes direct marketing in the form of love letters to reward customers - part of an integrated theme of "the budding romance between Starbucks coffee and the natural flavor and ingredients." Martinez adds the theme also resonated among its largely female target audience.

Other tactics include a microsite where the team will add content and promote giveaways. As the brand gears up for the holidays, the PR team plans to work with a chef and introduce a food and coffee pairing initiative.

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