Starbucks Rings in the Holidays With Big Social-Media Push

Will Partner With Pandora, Connect With Fans on Facebook, Flickr

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CHICAGO ( -- Get ready for Starbucks Holiday 2.0. The brand is going big in social media this year, having learned that its consumers want to participate in a variety of ways. So Starbucks is pulling back from its Thanksgiving TV buys of the past two years to focus on where its customers already spend time online and drive them into stores.

Starbucks' branded playlist on the Pandora site is designed to lure consumers into the store get a 'Love' CD with purchase.
Starbucks' branded playlist on the Pandora site is designed to lure consumers into the store get a 'Love' CD with purchase.
Starbucks is spreading the love around, advertising on websites from to Meebo; partnering with Pandora to offer branded holiday playlists; and encouraging participation in social and owned media to get consumers in the holiday spirit. The chain is continuing its partnership with Red, launched last Thanksgiving, by offering a free "All You Need Is Love" CD, with tracks from U2, John Legend and the Dave Matthews Band, when consumers spend $15. Additionally, Starbucks will give $1 to fight AIDS in Africa. There are also a variety of holiday-themed "Red" products for which Starbucks will also make the $1 donation with a customer purchase. This represents a stepped-up version of last year's offer, which was a five-cent donation made when consumers bought a holiday beverage such as a peppermint mocha.

"It's like we've taken the version 1.0 of last year and now we're really doing it at scale and going to a lot more places where our customers already are," said Chris Bruzzo, VP-brand, content and online at Starbucks. "People are saying this is going to be a big year for social media and we're a microcosm of that. Whereas last year it was a curiosity, this year it's a core part of the program."

Multiple touchpoints
Mr. Bruzzo said the brand has learned that different people want to connect in different ways, so Starbucks is offering a variety of touchpoints. "Of our 5 million [fans] on Facebook, not everyone is going to want the same thing," he said. For instance, last year Starbucks encouraged consumers to stop in, buy a holiday beverage, take pictures of themselves inside Project Red's logo parentheses, and upload their pictures to a Red holiday microsite. To make it easier, this year Starbucks is hosting a Flickr page where consumers can upload pictures of themselves with their holiday paraphernalia. They can also do so on Facebook, where fans can also send their friends red Starbucks cups. Mr. Bruzzo said the Starbucks shutterbugs are among the chain's biggest fans, valuable evangelists for the brand who educate friends and family about what's new at the chain.

For music lovers, Starbucks is partnering with Pandora in the hope that consumers will be thinking about Starbucks while listening to music, and perhaps will be more likely to pop by for a gingerbread latte. Mr. Bruzzo said the branded playlist on the music site is designed to get consumers into the store to spend $15 and get the "Love" CD. "We get the appeal of do good, feel good," he said. The Starbucks' integration includes Pandora's iPhone app, and Starbucks is paying Pandora for ad placement. BBDO, PHD and Blast Radius worked on the campaign.

Starbucks has also found a faster and easier way for consumers to get involved, even if they're not yet comfortable in social media. "There are some ways that take a lot of energy but make [consumers feel] vulnerable and scared, and only the hardcore people online will go through such incredible content submissions," Mr. Bruzzo said. For these less-comfortable folks, Starbucks created the "love drawing," at StarbucksLoveProject, for visitors to create a digital drawing using different paints and colors. For each of the first million drawings, Starbucks is donating 5 cents to Red.

"We're already up to a couple thousand on the site with people just coming in," Mr. Bruzzo said of the site's first day. "It takes a minute and it's a fun, engaging activity."

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