Starbucks Election Day Campaign: Snafu...or Marketing Genius?

On Election Day, Starbucks launched a one day marketing campaign...offering a free 12 oz. drip coffee to anyone who voted. But providing perks and voting don't mix--technically, it's illegal.

After the launch, Starbucks was forced to quickly regroup.

Late Monday afternoon, Starbucks spokesperson Valerie O'Neil released a statement, “To ensure we are in compliance with election law, we are extending our offer to all customers who request a tall brewed coffee."

The story flew around the wires and yesterday, it was the only piece of news sharing the spotlight with America's Presidential election.

Was it a legal oversight, marketing blunder or...a stroke of genius?

As the election results came in, an entire nation was glued their news sources. Reports about the Presidential elections went hand in hand with, "Did you hear about Starbucks?"

Good press can grab headlines...bad press is even better.

Stories that have the power to go viral are a marketer's dream. And if you stopped into Starbucks for your free cup of coffee? I bet you bought a muffin or a cookie to go with your free cup of coffee. Or maybe you were lured by the free coffee and then, standing in line, you think, "I'd rather have an espresso instead." You come for the coffee and never even try it. But you leave with a purchase. And that's the goal.

Even better? Chances are good, you stopped for your free coffee after the morning rush.


Starbucks gets a nice spike in business during hours when they are typically are on a skeleton crew.

While the promotion may have had a snafu, the unintended consequences worked in Starbuck's favor. You may have heard about the original promotion, but how many times did you hear about the Starbucks blunder from co-workers and news sources?

Viral buzz is a marketer's dream.

Since I used to be a number cruncher, the beauty here is that Starbucks will ride the wave for at least the next few days. When a successful promotion ends, people are still under the influence of the marketing. It's like subliminal tape..."Must go to Starbucks." Even if you haven't been to a Starbucks in weeks, the lure is very powerful.

At first blush, this may look like a marketing snafu, but with the increase in traffic, sales, and marketing impressions...this blunder was a boon for Starbucks.

Reading an article about the events, an anonymous poster left a comment about what they dubbed "The Obama Blend." They drew a parallel between Obama's ethnic background and coffee tasting notes from those regions.

This too is a bit of genius:

The Obama Blend-Best in the World.

Medium-bodied Kenya has layers of flavor, from black currant or blackberry to sweet, tropical fruit. The coffee is prized for its bright and refreshing quality.

Kona. The very name evokes the warmth of the sun, the rumble of waves along a coral reef, and the welcoming spirit of the Big Island. Grown in rich, volcanic soil, this delicate, light-bodied coffee possesses a sweet, caramelly aroma and delightfully nuanced flavors that tease the tongue like the gentle ebb and flow of the tide.

Sumatra has a full, syrupy body with virtually no acidity - so the coffee’s intensity lingers in your mouth. The concentrated spicy, herbal notes and earthy aroma are the telltale signatures of this well-loved coffee.

Comment by -- Ask for the Obama Blend--Don't forget to vote!