Caribou Coffee Takes Aim at Starbucks With First TV Ad

Second-Largest Java Chain to Push Authentic Vibes, Ingredients With 6-Week Cable Run

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CHICAGO ( -- Caribou Coffee will launch its first-ever TV campaign tomorrow with an approach that pokes fun at its biggest rival, Starbucks.

The spot is titled "Get Real: Chocolate" and stars a pair of urban snobs in a mall, played by marionette dolls. Sitting on a bench, they look enviously as a live person sits down next to them with a Caribou mocha, topped with a tower of whipped cream and a dusting of chocolate chips. The girl doll asks, "Why don't we ever get Caribou coffee?" Her male companion responds, "Because we're not real." Of course one of the biggest knocks on Starbucks, from non-brand loyalists, is the perceived snob factor.

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"The marionettes are a fun, lighthearted way to drive home the point that Caribou Coffee uses real ingredients," said Eric Husband, group creative director, Colle & McVoy, which created the spot. "But it goes beyond ingredients. Walk into any Caribou Coffee and there's this very real, genuine vibe -- it's what separates them from competitors. We wanted to convey this authenticity of the Caribou Coffee brand."

This is likely just the beginning of new marketing moves from Caribou, the nation's second-largest coffee chain, which tapped Colle & McVoy to handle its entire brand identity back in February. The agency is looking at everything from package design to store experience. The chain is planning a raft of new food items as well, including new bakery options and oatmeal, which has been incredibly successful for Starbucks.

In a statement, Caribou's senior VP-marketing, Alfredo Martel, described the mocha as the "first of several significant and exciting product introductions at Caribou." For the chain, which spent $1.9 million in measured media during 2008, according to TNS Media Intelligence, any cable spending will likely represent an increase in marketing investment. The company spent only $738,000 in measured media during 2007.

"We wanted to use a high-awareness vehicle like television to be certain that consumers knew what a big deal this is for the brand and what a wonderful impact it will have on their daily chocolate drink order," said Mr. Martel.

The spot will have a six-week cable TV run in major markets, and it will be promoted on YouTube and the chain's own website. Caribou will be running "Happy Monday" banner ads online, with $2 mocha offers.

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