Starbucks Stories: the experience economy at work

Posted: April 16, 2010 in brand, customer engagement, story
Tags: , ,

Yeah, they sell coffee – but what is Starbucks really selling? Well, are you in the mood for love?

So over the years, nearly every Starbucks employee has collected stories of seeing first love first hand. Coffee shop romance is not an uncommon thing after all when there’s nearly one on every corner. But Starbucks employees saw what was happening and they did something about it. They told their stories. And in telling their stories they invited others to tell more stories. Until one day the company decided it was time to capture these little slices of love and put them to work for the Starbucks brand. As part of their Valentine’s Day push, the company announced a contest called Match Made Over Coffee calling for couples to submit a 250-word story about relationships that found their first spark at a Starbucks outlet. The winner would receive an all expense paid trip for two to Vienna, Austria – coffee capital of the world. They received nearly a thousand entries.

Winners were announced to great media fanfare and the Valentine’s Day volume and mood at Starbucks coffee shops around the country was let’s say…steamy. And Starbucks’ reputation as a place to go to well, you never know – meet that special someone grew and grew.

Starbucks knew exactly what they were doing by telling these stories and encouraging customers to tell their stories. No, the stories weren’t about how great the coffee was but they were about the experience people had while enjoying Starbucks coffee in a Starbucks coffee shop. Starbucks is well aware we are in the experience economy and we are selling far more than products these days. And they knew the power of great stories, well told, that reinforce that brand experience message.

Well played, Starbucks. Well played indeed. Do you know what stories your customers are telling about an experience they’ve had at your place of business?

  1. martinizer says:

    That is a fantastic example of a brand engaging with its customers in a not so product related way. Nice!

    • Thanks, Martin! Isn’t it refreshing to see brands engaging in this non-product related manner? It’s a more holistic approach to address the way people are buying today – based on the experience they associate with a brand.

      • redkruzer says:

        I am enjoying and using bst’s stories.
        I had a wonderful story teller friend, Jim Croce.
        AJ exhibits the genes down quite well.

        To return more directly to the matter under discussion,
        I have my own Starbucks’ story:
        see “post script” at bottom of blog, where I point here.
        Sorry for the long story….

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