CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Starbucks launches its first major advertising and marketing campaign Tuesday for Via, the instant-coffee product it spent 20 years developing. The marketer is tapping traditional and social media, and asking consumers if they can tell the difference between the instant variety and the brewed coffee that made it a household name.
The chain is expecting between 8 million and 10 million consumers to visit its 7,500 company-run cafes in the U.S. and Canada to participate in a taste test that runs Friday through Monday. Participants will receive a "thank you" card good for a free coffee on their next visit, and $1 off their purchase of Via at any Starbucks.
Part of the idea for the taste test, said Terry Davenport, Starbucks senior VP-marketing, came from the Chicago market, where Starbucks did its only advertised test of Via. While the TV ads led to a high level of awareness, consumers weren't motivated to visit stores -- so the brand created an event in hopes of spurring its faithful into action.
"Instead of selling something at them, we ask them to participate with us," he said. In so doing, "we're using the best weapon in our tool kit, one that on one else has, our store-level partners." Starbucks is sending its 4 million Facebook friends invitations to participate, with the anticipation that they will invite their friends. "It has a multiplier effect," Mr. Davenport said.
TV support begins Tuesday and will last through Monday, with heavy rotation in the morning. The 30-second spot builds on the chain's ads on "Saturday Night Live" last weekend, with disparate groups of people unable to tell the difference between the two types of coffee. Starbucks is also attempting "roadblocks" in major newspapers and has approached morning deejay teams in major markets to integrate a Via taste test.
The chain has foreshadowed this type of campaign since Via launched in test markets this March. Two of three Ad Age taste-testers at the time, inspired by Starbucks' bold words, tried but could not tell the difference.