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Starbucks heats up social relationship marketing

NEW YORK – A Forrester Research analyst at the company’s Forum for Marketing Leaders named Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte campaign as an example of social relationship marketing excellence thanks to a scavenger hunt that helped drive sales last fall.

During the “2015 Groundswell Awards” session, the analyst discussed Forrester’s parameters for naming social media marketing winners, with an emphasis on three types of marketing: reach, depth and relationship. While Britain-based shaving product brand Wilkinson Sword took top honors for the social reach award, Starbucks’ consumer-friendly way of ramping up excitement for its popular fall drink ahead of its scheduled launch helped fuel sales and entice mobile users.

“There are categories for the awards, and they are based around Forrester’s marketing radar technology,” said Nate Elliott, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, New York. “The radar is an idea that has started to infuse a lot of our marketing coverage.”

Marketing channels
When undertaking social media and mobile outreach, brands must be able to pinpoint which channels to target first.

“Many marketing programs begin by developing depth channels,” Mr. Elliott said. “Relationship channels are also a critically important part of marketing channels.”

Relationship channels include driving consumers back to the branded Web site, enticing them to sign up for the mailing list and downloading mobile applications. Within the cylinder of social media marketing lie three different programs: social reach, social depth and social relationship programs.

Wilkinson Sword won first prize for social reach marketing for its “Facebook couples” campaign, featuring the Schick Hydro 5 razor. Couples using the Facebook app were asked to upload photos while shaving for a chance to win a voucher, with the campaign culminating in nine out of 10 participants claiming they had switched to using Wilkinson Sword razors.

The Starbucks effect
Meanwhile, Starbucks won first place for social relationship marketing, thanks to the online and social media-based scavenger hunt it rolled out to fans of its popular Pumpkin Spice Latte drink in 2014. While the beverage is typically only available beginning September, the brand allowed select consumers to get their first tastes in August by connecting with the @TheRealPSL handle on Twitter.

Fans were guided through daily clues, after which they received a secret passcode, entitled “FIRST PSL.” Guests could then visit their local Starbucks store to “unlock” the beverage and receive it early.

This was able to drive even more foot traffic to the brand’s bricks-and-mortar locations, and significantly ramp up sales by connecting with consumers in an organic way. Almost 62,000 social media users submitted photos expressing their excitement over the seasonal beverage, which is a top-seller for Starbucks.

The drink even has its own dedicated Facebook page, which was the subject of a joke on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon in 2013, with Mr. Fallon joking that a con of the drink was “realizing a cup of coffee has 12,000 more friends than you.”

Starbucks was able to turn social relationship marketing into an optimal sales opportunity by essentially creating a personality for the beverage, a tactic which thoroughly excited its loyal fans, alongside the scavenger hunt.

Ultimately, Forrester Research conceded that 2015’s Groundswell Awards received a plethora of strong entries from countries worldwide, making it a cutthroat year for brands.

“Many of our categories were fiercely competitive,” Mr. Elliott said.

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York