On March 3rd Starbucks entered the $17 billion instant coffee market with the launch of Starbucks Via Ready Brew instant coffee. That's right, I said INSTANT. Don't think that you're the first to question it. Starbucks Gossip, CNN, and everyone else has already been there. Wait just a minute though, Starbucks might have something. If only they could educate, engage, and connect the public to Via ... or have they already?
Tons of companies have websites, Twitter accounts, Facebook pages and YouTube channels but many of them aren't being used effectively. Starbucks is artfully using their website, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to educate, engage and connect the public to Via! Below is a little taste of what Startucks has been up to:
Starbucks has an excellent section of their website devoted to Via that includes: videos, images, customer comments, links to their Facebook and Twitter accounts, Google maps to help customers find Via in Chicago and Seattle (the site says London is coming soon), and stories about the product including why they named it Via. This content is engaging and tells the story of Via in a captivating way that makes people care.
The public, of course, has a great deal of questions about Via and Brad (who, according to a tweet from March 16th, was a barista at the Fremont store in Seattle 5 years ago and now tweets for Starbucks) is so great at answering them. For example:
@SoshaSarah Yes ... #VIA is Kosher.4:48 PM Feb 18th from TweetDeck in reply to SoshaSarah
@ryanwynia #VIA is made from the highest quality, ethically sourced arabica beans. The processing is all-natural: http://StarbucksVIA.com1:52 PM Mar 3rd from TweetDeck in reply to ryanwynia
@joyjewell Not yet ... we have plans to release a decaf #VIA, but it's not released yet.2:30 PM Mar 12th from TweetDeck in reply to joyjewell
Brad also informs Starbucks Twitter followers about upcoming events surrounding Via, like free give-aways online and on the streets of Chicago:
Chicago Residents ... look for the orange hats for your free sample of #VIA: http://twitpic.com/1tkjy8:56 AM Mar 3rd from TweetDeck
Brad is also connecting the public to Via by helping them find it and asking for their feedback.
If you're looking to find #VIA tomorrow in Seattle or Chicago, here's a map with tasting events and stores: http://is.gd/ltXW1:25 PM Mar 2nd from TweetDeck
@onetake let us know what you think of #VIA ... http://StarbucksVIA.com11:55 AM Mar 13th from Twittelator in reply to onetake
The official Starbucks Facebook page has 1,245,720 fans. Starbucks is using their Facebook to promote their videos, post information about Via and open discussions about the product. The posts about Via are overwhelmingly positive. My favorite:
Coffee should be Black as Hell, Dark as Night, Sweet as Love: I need a quality Instant Coffee in my instant life-style(!)
The positive comments go on and on. In the discussion section, brand evangelists are pointing out to nay-sayers that many up-scale brands offer products at lower price points (ie clothing labels and restaurants like Marie Callendar who sell frozen dinners). There is already an unofficial I Love Starbucks VIA page on Facebook!
There are 12 videos on Starbucks' YouTube site for Via that are well made, entertaining and educational. In the See how Starbucks Via Ready Brew got the whole of Chicago talking video, a women being interviewed mentions Via being a rather nice ingredient for making deserts. I thought this was another excellent use and tip.
When I first stumbled upon this story, I have to admit I thought, Starbucks and instant - really? I've tried instant, out of desperation and it was horrible. After reading the website, watching the videos and checking out their Twitter stream, I want to try it! It makes me unequivocally happy that a big company like Starbucks is successfully using Internet marketing and social media to share the story of Via to turn many a skeptic, including myself!