From Hero to Zero, or how to make an #epicfail at marketing

Generally speaking giving your customers a free gift is a great idea and one marketing departments fall over themselves to do. So how do you turn a seemingly bomb proof idea into an #epicfail? Just ask the Starbucks marketing department.

I was rather chuffed to find a card in Saturday's post offering me a free drink in "my very own reusable cup" for being a Gold Customer. Things started to go downhill when I noticed the use by date. It was Sunday. So the card had arrived at 12:30 on Saturday, after we'd been to town, and had to be used by the following day when we weren't going to be anywhere near a Starbucks. Needless to say my warm fuzzy feelings were rapidly disappearing at this point.

Starbucks offer

A perusal of Starbucks UK’s Facebook showed that I wasn't alone in my frustrations. A number of problems were rearing their heads.

  • The dreaded "subject to availability", and apparently there wasn't any ... even after people had been waiting a week.
  • "Not all our customers are equal" - some people were getting £8 tumblers, others were getting £1 plastic cups ... without lids.
  • "Lack of code" - some were asking for their free drinks and being told "no cups, no free drinks, and no code for them to enter on the till".

This offer was made to Starbucks Gold customers. These are people who make more than 50 purchases a year at Starbucks. These are Starbucks hardcore customer base. These are people who, given the choice, will walk past a Costa's to go to the Starbucks further up the street. These are not the people you want to piss off. And Starbucks have done just that. Saturday morning I was a happy Starbucks Gold customer. By Saturday afternoon I was an unhappy Starbucks Gold customer, and all because Starbucks had offered me a free cup and drink. Like I said, how do you turn a free gift into an #epicfail? Just ask the Starbucks Marketing Department.

Header Image Copyright: 123RF Stock Photo



Jamie Whitehorn

Jamie Whitehorn

A self proclaimed geek who loves technology, data, computers, photography and science; but balances this by spending time with his wonderful better half and their dogs and horses in the countryside.

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