Starbucks Spreads Surprise and Delight

One of the most notable elements of Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX  ) over the years is its ability to fire up heated growth without the benefit of ubiquitous television ad spots or other more pedestrian forms of marketing. This year, Starbucks is apparently embarking on some interesting methods in getting customers' attention during the holiday season.

According to TheWall Street Journal, Starbucks has taken its marketing to the streets. Most innovative, to my way of thinking, is its Good Samaritan campaign, where magnetized cups are affixed to the tops of cars that are driven by folks on the Starbucks payroll. When passersby point out the coffee's precarious predicament, the drivers give the good Samaritans a $5 Starbucks gift card. This campaign has been going on in Seattle, Chicago, New York, and San Francisco.

Starbucks also went to the movies in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, buying all the seats in several movie theaters so that customers who entered were told their movies were free, thanks to the company.

Last, Starbucks launched The Red Cup website -- www.theredcup.com -- which has a lot of interactive fun for the entire family, inspired by the holiday version of the Starbucks cup, which, as you are probably already aware, is indeed red. It includes many features, such as cards that surfers can print out and mail, games, and multimedia presentations, all having to do with the holidays.

Starbucks' "surprise and delight" campaign is nothing new -- last February, our own David Gardner interviewed Starbucks CEO Jim Donald (here is the transcript), and Donald described the "surprise and delight" mission as one of the ways Starbucks hoped to continue to win over the coffee-guzzling public.

As a Starbucks shareholder, I'm gratified to see that Starbucks is trying tactics that are much more unique than the usual ad campaigns launched by companies with well-known consumer brands, such as McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) . (And that company, of course, would love a piece of Starbucks' morning caffeine-and-pastry traffic.)

However, Starbucks has always been a company where marketing leaned more heavily toward word of mouth and a certain grassroots appeal than anything else. The idea that the company spread the word by spreading cheer this year seems in keeping with the culture that is Starbucks. It's good to know that Starbucks is staying true to its roots.

For more recent Foolish talk of Starbucks, see the following articles:

Do you want to talk about Starbucks? We have an active discussion board dedicated to Starbucks investors.

Alyce Lomax owns shares of Starbucks.


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