Starbucks: Using Confrontational Marketing to Build Brand Awareness in a Saturated Market

Confrontational Marketing -- Building Brand Awareness in a Saturated Market
Today as I was crossing the Embarcadero I noticed that this gentleman had left his coffee on the roof of his car. Midway through the cross walk I turned and pointed at him and he just waved at me. I ran back to the other side of the crosswalk and approached his window as he wasn’t getting what I was pointing at. When I got close enough to speak to him I told him that his coffee was on his roof. He looked at me and said, “I know, Happy Holiday’s from Starbucks!” At first I didn’t get it, it didn’t sink in, so I told him again, your coffee it’s on your roof and again he looked me square in they eye and said, “yes, yes, I know, Happy Holidays from Starbucks.” It was at this point that I realized that the coffee cup was permanently affixed to his roof and that he was an advertisement in disguise.

I can just imagine the meeting when some PR guy was pitching this one to Starbuck’s corporate, yeah, yeah, we’ll trick all these people, it will be great!

Even though I’m not sure how I feel about cars clogging traffic and polluting the City with exhaust to make a marketing point, I still had a chuckle when I realized that I’d been had.

*Davis Freeberg update – It turns out that this is the second year that Starbucks has run the campaign. Jim Romenesko pointed out that Starbucks Gossip blogged about a similar campaign in Boston earlier this year. Starbucks has an interesting video clip of their coffee cup on a taxi cab at The site is in flash, but if you click on the TV and select the clip “follow that cup”, you can see the commercial that goes with the campaign.

17 Replies to “Starbucks: Using Confrontational Marketing to Build Brand Awareness in a Saturated Market”

  1. Well, he looks happy.

    As you say, advertising needs to be exceptional, or at least different, in order to stand out these days. But then, when ALL advertising is exceptional, how will they distinguish their brand then?

    The soul-sapping qualities of high density disguised adverts are plain to see. You won’t even be able to go out for a beer with your mates, for fear that they’re being paid by Miller to influence your choice of beverage.

  2. My boyfriend saw the same promotion in SF yesterday, but it was a different driver and a different car. When he told the driver about the coffeecup, the driver gave him a $5 gift certificate to Starbucks.

    I’m sure that receiving a giftcard would have made you feel much different about the transaction.

  3. That’s just too funny… Thomas Hawk running after a Starbucks Car:-) Ricola has ads out that encourage people to always carry some cough drops with them – in case they meet someone with a cough. If you offer the ricola mystery cougher a cough drop, you might win a million dollars. That’s a lot of camera.

    And that’s why suckers like me tell them where I am and how old I am just so they can send me clues over my EMAIL address.

    They didn’t need this to convince me anyway. My grandma used to give me Ricola. I’d buy Ricola just because of her..

  4. if you spell checked your opinion would be more impactful and your blog more worthy of a repeat visit

  5. Sorry Mandy. The spellchecker in blogger sucks and I don’t always get around to running the stories through MS Word. I corrected the two errors that I found in this article though, my misspelling of polluting and advertisement. Thanks.

  6. This blog isn’t about how well Thomas can spell. If anything, errors show he’s a little more human. The day bloggers start paying more attention to spelling instead of getting content out is the day I stop reading.

  7. Jesus. If he spelled every word wrong it would still be better than if he used the word “impactful.”

  8. Yeah it is a little bit amusing…
    but it kinda goes down the line of abusing peoples concern for other peoples wellbeing.
    By tricking them, you risk not having those people being concerned about your wellbeing in the future.
    (In the starbucks example, people in the area this ad-campaign was run will no longer have warning from the general public if they leave something on the roof of the car, as the general public will think it is a ad campaign for the brand of the product you accidentally leave on the roof of your car.

  9. sorry i think I went in and out of 1st and 2rd person then.

    secondly the point was mentioned, but any type of non-essential burning of fossil fuel and non-essential traffic congestion is counter-productive.

  10. Remember when you’d tell people that they’d left their headlights on? *chirp-chirp*

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