Your Best Friend for Exams – Starbucks

This exam week, two things are in short supply – sleep and coffee. After you down your triple-shot vanilla iced cappuccino, you eventually have to go back to the barista to get a fill-up. Where do you go? Bespoke? PCJ? Grinders? Bitty & Beau’s? No matter what shop you name, I can guarantee that shop was influenced by the one and only coffee juggernaut – Starbucks.

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Starbucks is a champion in all things IMC. From branding to messaging, everyone’s favorite barista bistro has built itself on the backs of everything we study in IMC. Starbucks has transformed itself, its coffee, and even its industry in order to work effectively in IMC.

1: The Coffee Industry

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Starbucks has less branded itself and more branded the entirety of its marketplace. Coffee shops before Starbucks weren’t necessarily the places of social progress and revolution that we see in today’s coffee shops. During the 60’s and 70’s, the coffee industry realized that its young buyers weren’t resonating with their work-focused “buy to caffeinate” message. In order to win the demographic back, Starbucks and other chains focused on the social justice and environmental trends in the late 60’s and early 70’s, and promised that buying their coffee would (somehow) help the environment, or help veterans and homeless people find jobs. It worked, and business soared to peak levels, and influencing coffeeshops forever. Now, it’s hard to go to a coffeeshop that doesn’t have some sort of socially progressive message, from single-sourced, organic grounds, to events that promise to donate 50% of the profits to non-profits.

2: The Unicorn Frappuccino


Let’s take the infamous Unicorn Frappuccino as our example. Starbucks announced this wacky looking drink earlier this year, garnering a massive amount of attention. Its uniqueness caused quite a stir. Consumers flocked to their nearby Starbucks to try this once-in-a-lifetime drink for themselves to immense disappointment: it tasted terrible. This only worked in Starbucks’ favor though, as sales continued to skyrocket due to people telling their friends how absolutely terrible the drink is, only solidifying everyone’s need to try it for themselves. “There’s no way it’s THAT bad”, and “I wanna try it, maybe I’ll like it!” were some of the thoughts on people’s minds that day, only to lead to bitter disappointment. The fleeting nature of the event was perfect for something like this, where the drink doesn’t affect Starbucks’ brand too much, and the messaging and virality can bring in more customers than any flavored latte ever could.

3: Viral Beverages


Besides the Unicorn Frappuccino, Starbucks comes up with other, better, beverages and products. Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Puppuccinos are some of these. Pumpkin Spice Latte season is something that coffee lovers celebrate every year. The first day of Pumpkin Spice Latte is a veritable holiday, with customers rushing in to welcome the flavor back. For precision, this year’s Facebook post on the return of pumpkin spice got 78 thousand likes, 11 thousand comments, and 7.4 thousand shares, compared to their post on the Holiday Spice Flat White, which received 33 thousand likes, 1.5 thousand comments, and 1.3 thousand shares.

Besides that, Starbucks Puppuccinos (a FREE small cup filled with whipped cream offered to dogs) are a successful marketing tool for the company. The much loved treat for our four-legged friends have been a smash hit for Starbucks ever since their inception. Starbucks’ Puppuccinos generate adorable (and often viral) snapchats, videos, and gifs, like this one:


Starbucks has built itself on its brand and IMC principles, allowing it to soar and claim its place at the top of the coffeeshop heap. Only time will tell if it stays there, but as long as Starbucks stays true to IMC and its base, I believe Starbucks will be around for good.

-Eli Jenkins


14 thoughts on “Your Best Friend for Exams – Starbucks

  1. I definitely love Starbucks, but I also like supporting local businesses. They might not have unicorn frappuchnos, but I think they could be better gathering places for communities. There are some fantastic places in Carrboro that host swing dancing, writing groups, and other social events. Starbucks is great, but for me, there’s nothing that compares to a locally owned coffee shop.

  2. I thought the Unicorn Frappuccino marketing strategy was genius. I never realized Starbucks’ exact angle on the drink, but I found it especially interesting that such a high quality, well known business like Starbucks would benefit from negative publicity. Thinking back on the time when the Unicorn Frap came out, I had those exact urges to try it for myself. The whole ordeal was legendary and in response, I don’t think anyone will ever forget “that one time Starbucks released that gross multi colored drink.” This goes to show that in some situations, any type of advertising or publicity is good because attention is grabbed and attention is the base of what companies need to be successful.

    • I completely agree with this. It is funny that even a gross drink has every single person in America wanting to try it, including celebrities. In class today my teacher was just talking about how starbucks started in the 70’s by a man who wanted to create a space other than home and work where people could go and enjoy themselves, and from that has sparked the entire coffee culture, including the good and the bad publicity.

  3. Starbucks has really continued to build their brand in the last few years. Here at UNCW, the Starbucks line is always out the door and everyone has the Starbucks Christmas cup in hand at all times. Since Starbucks has created such a big name for itself, anything new they create, we will sell.

  4. The fact that a Starbuck’s is on almost every corner points to how much they have affect the coffee industry more than their pop culture influence. There are two of them on our campus; one of which is half of our new dining hall. I feel that their literal presense has helped them take over the coffee business more than any IMC practice has.

  5. Starbucks is definitely an addiction of mine especially around exams. I am always drinking about 2 cups a day to make sure I have enough energy for the day. I sadly am part of the group of “basic” girls with also drinking pumpkin spice lattes

  6. This blog made me laugh and actually I can agree with this Starbucks being my best friend right now. I love how excited people get over the seasonal beverages, (even though pumpkin spice is not one of my favorites) and how starbucks wants to connect to their customers by doing nice things such as the puppuccinos!

  7. Before reading this post, I didn’t think much about the larger influence that Starbucks had in the coffee industry. Looking back on all the coffee shops that I have been to, they all had at least one similar characteristics to Starbucks. I guess, now, a coffee shop cannot be successful if it doesn’t follow some of the Starbucks practices.

  8. Starbucks is my favorite example to refer to when talking about branding and IMC. I am so fascinated with how brands are created from nothing but a dream.

  9. I love the introduction to this blog post. Starbucks is a Juggernaut in the industry and many local shops have a long way to go before they reach that level.

  10. I like the connection you made between the mystery behind the unicorn frappuccino leading everyone to want to try it for themselves and see if it was really that gross. I am familiar with the puppuccino and have taken my dog there to get one on several occasions. The introduction of the puppuccino into Starbucks’ menu included a new audience for their stores, dogs. Great article.

  11. I believe like you said as long as Starbucks sticks to its brand it’ll be around for quite a awhile. it is interesting to see how this company has revolutionized the market and like said in the smaller coffee shops you can see an aspect of Starbucks.

  12. This article is funny to me because I do not drink coffee at all during finals week. After reading this, I may give it a try though!

  13. I totally agree with this article in the aspect that Starbucks definitely knows how to utilize IMC. I’m not a huge coffee drinker, but when I think of coffee one of the first places I think of is Starbucks. I have even heard from a lot of people that Starbucks isn’t even that good. The thing is, they advertise so well, that people are tricked into believing they are the best. I think this is interesting, and it obviously shows that they know how to make people want their product and support their brand.

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