Starbucks Reinforces Brand by Helping Customers Do Good

(Chief Marketer) Sure, as usual, this year Starbucks changed its coffee cup color to red to signal the start of the holiday season. But it went beyond cups this year with and the accompanying Cheer Pass campaign, an effort to spread holiday goodwill to customers and encourage them to pass it on. Brad Stevens, vice president of U.S. marketing (favorite holiday drink: peppermint mocha), talked with MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT sister e-newsletter “CM Plus” recently via e-mail about the Cheer Pass initiative.

Starbucks passed out Cheer Passes at events around the country. Recipients received a festive surprise along with the pass, the only catch being they had to then do something nice for someone else–and encourage that person to pass it on too. Each pass is individually numbered, allowing recipients to share their stories of cheer on The stories range from people simply buying a cup of coffee for a friend to a stranger raking a wheelchair-using neighbor’s yard.

“It’s about creating a positive experience for our loyal customers in a nontraditional way, which is tradition itself here at Starbucks,” says Stevens.

CM PLUS: So, what “random acts of cheer” has Starbucks perpetrated?

STEVENS: We’ve been happily spreading cheer around North America for a couple of weeks now. When we launched the campaign in Times Square, our “brand ambassadors” engaged in 8,000 acts of cheer in a few short hours. They passed out complementary subway tokens, peppermint lip balm, “The New York Times,” one-pound bags of Starbucks Christmas Blend coffee, and tickets to see the Broadway play “The Drowsy Chaperone.” Around the country we’re also treating people to mini Christmas trees with a $5 Starbucks Card decoration, free movie tickets, and free admission to the Space Needle and other amusements.

CM PLUS: What’s the marketing goal behind the effort?

STEVENS: We created as an online holiday destination and extension of the Starbucks experience. People can log on to virtually share their favorite traditions or send a humorous and interactive greeting to a friend or family member. People also can share their stories of cheer and track just how far one act of kindness can go with our Cheer Pass campaign.

CM PLUS: How many people have shared their stories so far?

STEVENS: Since the launch of the campaign on Nov. 9, more than 300 stories have already been posted on the Cheer Pass microsite, with many more stories submitted every day. People are posting incredible stories, and we’ve managed to start some “chains of cheer.”

CM PLUS: Are you collecting any information from people who share stories for future marketing efforts?

STEVENS: Starbucks designed the campaign to encourage our customers to spread holiday cheer. We will not use any information submitted for additional marketing efforts.

CM PLUS: How is the Cheer Pass campaign being promoted?

STEVENS: First and foremost, the Cheer Pass is being driven by the public, through the acts of kindness they perform as a result of the campaign. Starbucks is acting as a catalyst by starting each “chain of cheer” with a surprise and delight gift to our customers. We have a goal to distribute 500,000 Cheer Passes this holiday season. We just ask the recipient to pass along the kindness.

CM PLUS: How are you judging the ROI of the campaign?

STEVENS: We will deem the Cheer Pass campaign a success if we are able to create a memorable and positive holiday experience for our customers and establish a new holiday tradition for Starbucks.

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