5 Marketing Tactics From Starbuck’s Unicorn Frappuccino Launch You Can Copy…

I write about green businesses and how to help startups succeed.

From the Food Babe ranting about what the Unicorn Frappuccino actually contains, to Business Insider reporting that the magical sounding drink is all sold out, it is clear that there is one thing Starbucks is doing well — other than giving everyone a sugar & caffeine high — and that is making news.

So what can small businesses learn from this sweet sensation?

Starbuck’s Unicorn Frappuccino blended beverage

Heather DeSantis, a Public Relations specialist who helps six figure startups break seven, spends her free time reviewing marketing wins. Her analysis extracts lessons for the 100+ TV and radio interviews that she oversees each month. She shares her learnings from the success of the Starbuck’s launch in this interview with Forbes:

Background

Before we get to the lessons, it is helpful to understand the context. “The Unicorn Frappuccino was inspired by unicorn-themed food and drinks trending on social media, including unicorn emojis on Facebook, and even a unicorn filter on Snapchat,” DeSantis explains. “It’s human nature to be drawn to something that has magical powers, and with Apple’s recent launch of a wildly popular Unicorn emoji , this obsession from the 1980s is back in a big way. For months, fans of the fictional creature have been sharing unicorn themed food and drink across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.”

The Starbucks concoction promises guests a color changing drink mixed with ‘pixy powder dust’ that will delight with its mango flavoring and special sour blue powder. The drink was offered in a limited run, from April 19-April 23, but Starbucks locations soon ran out of supplies. “One Starbucks store in Orlando, FL that normally serves 45-55 Frappuccinos per day, on Unicorn Wednesdays typically sold 175 drinks,” DeSantis reports.

Now patrons are wondering & hoping that the drink that was pitched as “fleeting as a rainbow” will become a permanent menu item. But, according to DeSantis, whether it comes back or not, the lessons from this mega hit remain the same. They are:

1)UseNational News and Awareness Days

“National Unicorn Day was celebrated on April 9th, which caused hundreds of trending hashtags announcing #NationalUnicornDay. It is not confirmed that Starbucks capitalized on this national awareness day — but honestly, there is no way this could be a coincidence. People were still obsessing over unicorns, so when Starbucks announced their new drink, people were foaming at the mouth to get in on the unicorn action,” explains DeSantis.

 

2)   Create an Aesthetically Pleasing Product 

“The Unicorn drink became instantly famous. It was aesthetically appealing and bright on social media with its fairy-like hues of pink, blue and purple,” DeSantis says. When creating a sensation, consider colors that delight, offer whimsy and a touch of magic.

3)   Social Media Is Key

“The arrival of the drink was leaked on Reddit — and co-workers shared photos of the product before it was announced on social media! This created huge suspense for consumers, and included them in the concept prior to product launch.” Leveraging social media in advance of your release may work in a similar way.

4)   Brand Evangelists Are Key

In this case, consumers became the marketing wing for Starbucks! “2017 is the year of influencers and Starbucks gave power to the consumers by leaking photos on Reddit which then allowed their fans to share the news first,” DeSantis says. Get the people who love your brand to help spread the word; their posts and tweets can make all the difference.

5)   Consider The Fashion To Food Arena

“Starbucks capitalized on a theme that was HOT, retro, chic, and coming back around,” DeSantis says. Riding nostalgia trends from food to fashion is a good way to get an extra boost in brand recognition and sales.

The result of this success for Starbucks was not only excellent sales of a single drink, but the acquisition of new customers. “Multiple Starbucks locations reported that they were serving large numbers of people they had never seen before, including teens, college age patrons, and even young kids. This drink brought people into Starbucks who had never been to a Starbucks before. Because of the positive experience of their Unicorn Frappachino, they most likely will be recurring customers in the future, which is a huge ROI,” DeSantis notes.

As a PR specialist, for DeSantis, the buzz is everything. She concludes: “The publicity and social media buzz will last much longer than the drink’s appearance on the menu. In one day, Starbucks stock rose 1.8% to $60.08.”

Looks like the brand, and its investors, have found the proverbial pot of gold at the end of this rainbow.

P.S. For those who are sad that they will not get to try a Unicorn Frappachino, DeSantis suggests you ask your Starbucks for the Pokémon Go — a vanilla bean Frappuccino with raspberry syrup and freeze dried blackberries.

@kate_l_harrison and find my marketing consulting business online at katelharrison.com. For the green wedding professional certification class, visit greenweddingprofessionals.com.

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