Starbucks is a roaster and retailer of specialty coffee operating over 17,000 stores in 50 countries around the world. Starbucks first entered the Greater China market in 1998 opening its first store in Taipei, followed by the official launch of its mainland China operations in Beijing the next year. By marketing Starbucks as 第三空间 di san kongjian or “the third place” that is neither work nor home, Chinese consumers developed a taste for premium coffee in China’s first tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai. In October 2011, Starbucks opened its 500th store in mainland China and plans to reach 1,500 stores in the Middle Kingdom by 2015. For more information about Starbucks’ China operations read the following interview with Marie Han Silloway, Chief of Marketing for Starbucks China.
In December 2011 Starbucks needed to develop an effective marketing strategy to target Chinese consumers for a provincial Christmas campaign. While China is an atheist country, in recent years Christmas has become a popular holiday to celebrate among young consumers – particularly white-collar workers. Starbucks viewed Christmas as a perfect opportunity to reach its target customers.
Starbucks partnered with China’s leading mobile advertising platform Guohe Ad to tap into its local mobile expertise. Guohe’s mobile campaign used three applications – Weico, Business Value, and Days Matter – which young Chinese professionals use regularly. Starbucks leveraged its 3-app strategy to drive customers to their Starbucks stores and use the Sina Weibo social app to “check-in” – announcing to all of their friends on the social network that they are at Starbucks. Any customer who “checked in” at one of over 200 locations in Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces received a free drink size upgrade.
Guohe Ad helped Starbucks reach the number one spot on Weico, leading to 40,000 daily impressions on its mobile marketing page from Dec 18-20 and a substantial increase in customers. According to Starbucks’ Shanghai Marketing Director, Lu Huang - “The ad targeting and integration of social media efficiently helped Starbucks to convert mobile users into our real customers, it also enabled Starbucks to celebrate Christmas with customers in the online and offline world.”