It is officially cold, and you know what that means? Starbucks. Yes indeed, the little coffee shop with the green logo located on every corner in America; serving the best of burned beans to all craving a caffeine buzz. Starbucks has capitalized on Christmas and the holiday season more than any other company in recent years, and I’m not just talking about how they’ve completely monopolized the white-girl market with their pumpkin spiced lattes.
The reason why Starbucks is so successful is because Starbucks has managed to make you think of their brand when you think of Christmas, without actually trying to sell you on Christmas. All other brands take the following approach to the holiday season: Let’s advertise to consumers how great our discounts are in hopes to get their money. Starbucks takes this approach: Let’s advertise what the holidays are about (ie friends and family) in hopes that those friends and family will visit us. (Apple put out a similarly successful ad last year.)
What Starbucks does so well in addition to their advertisements goes hand in hand: Their red cups, and their holiday drinks. If it’s November and you see someone walking down the street with a red Starbucks cup, you immediately think it must be close to Thanksgiving or Christmas and you may start to think about one of Starbucks holiday-only drinks such as the pumpkin spiced latte or peppermint mocha. When you think of a peppermint mocha or pumpkin spiced latte, you think of Starbucks. I would argue that if you’re with friends or family during the holidays and someone suggests coffee, it’s almost a given that you will go to Starbucks. I say that not because Starbucks is located on every corner, but because during the holidays you want to enrich your life with the things holidays are about (friends, family). The peppermint mocha appeals so perfectly to nostalgia because everyone as a kid grew up eating candy canes around Christmas. And it’s just too easy to associate the pumpkin spiced latte with a pumpkin pie grandma just pulled out of the oven when you were younger. The Starbucks marketing is so non-hostile which is why it works. You go into a Starbucks during December and you’re not bombarded with red-tag sales, you’re bombarded with friends, family, and memories.