Yes. I know. I’m late to the party. Like, way late. Story of my life, actually. I’m not just the one that shows up fashionably late, I show up late enough that I know darn well I probably missed the highlight of the night.
Unless the party has drag queens, then I’m totally the first in line.
Also, my tardiness problem is considerably ironic, given that I tend to be an early-adopter on pretty much everything else. Gmail, Facebook, Pinterest, Ello? Yep, I got in on all of those when they were still invite-only. (What’s Ello, you say? Yeah, it never really took off, but they seem to still have a pulse. That’s cool.) So I do like being the first. For sure. I think it’s part of my first-born nature. Always the leader. Except sometimes, like now, when I’m talking about something that happened a month ago and pretty much everyone except for Wishbone has all but forgotten it.
Which, if you want to talk about the culinary abomination that was the Unicorn Frappuccino, that’s probably a good thing. But I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about the marketing brilliance that made baristas across the country loathe their little blenders for a solid week.
You see, Starbucks is kind of brilliant in the way that not only do they pay attention to what their audience loves, they actually do a great job of responding to it. Why else do you think that in addition to a cup of coffee, you can get a variety of teas and shakes, have a virtual workspace with free wi-fi, and pull those bumpin’ beats into a Spotify playlist? Starbucks really knows their customer. Whether you’re a Lululemon-wearing soccer mom, a business exec, or a teenager grabbing a break between algebra and bio class, they have something for you.
And so they watched as the Millennials and Gen Z’s obsession with unicorns—from unicorn hair to unicorn decor—rose, all in the name of expressing their uniqueness among the masses. (Don’t get me started on the irony of going so headstrong into being an individual that you jump onto a uniqueness bandwagon.)
And they joined the masses.
The first rule about guerilla marketing campaigns is you do not talk about guerilla marketing campaigns. The second rule about guerilla marketing campaigns is you do not talk about guerilla marketing campaigns. So the cute little intern, sitting in the product development meeting, frantically taking notes (and by taking notes, I mean SnapChatting her besties), hears about this new drink that is sure to please the masses.
“OMG. We are totally going to make a unicorn drink! FTW! Shh. Don’t tell anyone.”
Becomes the secret whispers and speculation among friends.
“So I heard this rumor that Starbucks is making a unicorn drink. Is that really a thing?”
And then the badass peeps at Mashable get wind of it and they need to know, is this fake news, or is this a thing?
“OMG. It is a thing. And it’s limited. And it’s going to be released on Eunice’s birthday eve, how perfect!” Okay, so maybe I’m lying about the fact that they picked April 19th in early celebration of me, but still. They honed in on some serious economic gold—the phrase of scarcity, “LIMITED EDITION.”
And the masses hoarded to Starbucks on April 19th in hopes that they would be among the small (and by small I mean the entire Starbucks culture of a few million people) to experience the magic and blow up social media with photos and reactions as if they just received an invitation to take the next shuttle to the International Space Station. Which opened up a divide between the likes and dislikes of the actual product, along with hilarious memes and the healthy-minded weighing in on the sugar content. The Internet(s) were abuzz with unicorn madness
Loved it (weirdo) or hated it, Starbucks clearly gets the gold star for winning that campaign. They made a ton of money, a crappy product, and got tons of free publicity. They are my viral marketing heroes.