Starbucks celebrates season of sharing with big fake snowflakes

By David Kiefaber on Thu Dec 2 2010

Starbucks heralds the beginning of winter with this snowflake kite ad, complete with an indie-pop song by Matt Pond PA. The ad directs viewers to a 12 Days of Sharing site, which is basically an advent calendar of daily special offers. You can also watch a video by the Killers and prompt a 5-cent donation to the (Red) campaign. All of which is quite festive, and sweeps Starbucks' recent price rise under the rug. But no matter. It'll take more than a $2 tall coffee to scare the Starbucks faithful away.

Guess which sizes are missing from Starbucks' drive-thru menu

By T.L. Stanley on Tue Sep 14 2010


If you need to read the menu at a Starbucks drive-through, then you must not be too familiar with the overpriced, burnt-tasting coffee they sell there. Since Aug. 31, you, the latte amateur, have been told that you can buy "grande" and "venti" sizes—that would be the 16-and 20-ounce cups o' joe. There's no mention on the tote board, though, of cheaper alternatives like the "short" (8 ounces) or "tall" (12 ounces). Deceptive? Starbucks, of course, says no. A company rep tells USA Today: "We did it because our customers were frustrated with the difficulty of reading our drive-through menus." Again, the card-carrying loyalists already know what they want—it's the lapsed, occasional and/or new customer who needs the details. And not telling them that there's a half-price version of that 300-calorie drink they're considering is just plain dishonest. I recommend going elsewhere for a caffeine fix, but if you insist on Starbucks, just order a "small" and see what happens. And please report back—if your friendly neighborhood barista tries to upsell you, that's one thing. If he/she ignores your attempt at frugal indulgence and hands over a grande, then the chain has some 'splainin' to do.

Have a crushed and squeezed Starbucks Frappuccino your way

Posted on Wed May 5 2010

There are many, many ways you can have your Starbucks Frappuccino. So much so that the coffee chain this week launched "However-You-Want-It" Frappuccino drinks. The blended ice drinks, which include top-selling flavors like Strawberries & Crème, Mocha Light and Extra Coffee Caramel, can now be further customized to your liking (e.g, hold the whipped cream, extra shot of espresso, nonfat milk, please?). Ads from BBDO, New York, show the different ingredients of a (yum!) Strawberries  & Crème Frappuccino coming together. (It's pretty fast. You'll have to watch it multiple times.) In between the strawberries smashing, ice blending and slurping consumers is the phrase, "Amazing. Ice. Bliss." Which pretty much sums it up. We're off to get one—OK, a second one.

—Posted by Elaine Wong

Nescafé still turning up its nose at Starbucks' Via instant coffee

Posted on Wed Feb 17 2010


When Starbucks introduced its Via instant coffee last September, it went all out to promote it, even to the point of supposedly instructing baristas to do anything to get people into try it, including using guilt as a motivator. All the strong-arming was worth it, though, since Starbucks recently reported that Via has been a hit. It's not surprising, then, that Nestlé's Nescafé, a competitor in the instant-coffee segment, is attempting to strike back. Outdoor ads from McCann Erickson's Los Angeles office compare Nescafé to an unnamed competitor that just happens to have a green logo with the word "hype" in the middle of it. (Nescafé, for its part, is represented by a cup emblazoned with the word "Flavor.") This is just the latest salvo from the Nestlé brand. Last June, Nescafé greeted the looming introduction of Via with an ad that said: "Dear  Starbucks, imitation is flattery. Charging 400% more, not so much."

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

Fast-food companies are suddenly worried about your waistline

Posted on Wed Jan 6 2010

It's a new year, and that means die-hard gym rats like myself are putting up with a flood of resolutionists (resolutionistas?) who've decided it's time to lose those extra 20 pounds. (If history is any guide, they'll be out of my way within a month.) But I can't blame them for being influenced by the annual wave of advertising from weight-loss products, fitness clubs and supplements that are nudging, shaming and/or frightening them to get off the couch and check their girth. But there's an unexpected new player in this game now: fast-food chains touting "low-cal" goods. Taco Bell, home to the fourthmeal (the one between dinner and breakfast) has rolled out a Drive-Thru Diet campaign, seemingly without a trace of irony. Dunkin' Donuts is pushing egg-white breakfast sandwiches. And Starbucks is promoting "skinny" lattes. (Subway's Jared is starting to look like the surgeon general by comparison.) For those "heavy users," the loyal backbone of the fast-food industry, it could be time to rejoice. For the rest of us, it's buyer beware.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

So, does Starbucks' Via instant coffee really taste fresh-brewed?

Posted on Thu Oct 1 2009

The baristas at Starbucks are extra perky this week, and not because they're downing espresso shots (though maybe they are). It's because of the launch of Via, a new line of Starbucks instant coffee. As much as I wanted to get my latte and run this morning, the woman at the cash register insisted I try Via and went on to explain the two "irresistible" varieties: Colombia medium roast and Italian extra bold. Everywhere I looked, I couldn't escape Via: in-store displays, posters, digital screens and at the registers, where free samples were abundant. Starbucks went all out for this launch, making sure its patrons see Via even in their dreams. My barista insisted the coffee tastes just like regular Starbucks, and I was sold. I'll pay $2.95 for a three-pack of instant coffee that tastes just like the stuff I usually get for $2 and change. Well, as I found out later, Via doesn't taste exactly like Starbucks. But to be fair, it's close enough and offers a bold taste that not many other instant coffees do. So, what's the verdict? Starbucks has done a great job marketing the product, but it should tone down the promises a bit. Instant coffee is instant coffee, after all.

—Posted by Elena Malykhina

Starbucks all but admits its brand name has become a liability

Posted on Fri Jul 17 2009

Starbucks copy

Starbucks is removing its name from the 15th Avenue East store in Seattle, the company's hometown. In fact, 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea went from imminent closure to ground zero for the coffee giant's "unbranding" experiment, complete with a makeover to fit Starbucks' new look. Even the coffee is getting relabeled. Starbucks plans to do this in at least three more Seattle-area stores, and possibly in other markets if this catches on. The idea is to instill "a community personality" in Starbucks locations, which—in addition to the cosmetic changes—amounts to serving alcohol, hosting live performances and using manual espresso machines. It's a little hollow, yes. A friend of mine summed it up as Starbucks trying to buy credibility. It doesn't help that Starbucks employees staked out other coffee shops to steal such novel ideas as not making customers feel like corporate whores every time they bought something. But any effort on their part to make themselves less conspicuous is a good one, and I might even take the bait if they drop the prices on their sandwiches.

—Posted by David Kiefaber

Wild app competition brewing between Caribou Coffee and Starbucks

Posted on Fri Jul 10 2009

Caribou Coffee The coffee competition has gone digital. Caribou Coffee recently launched a Facebook application called "Wild It Up," in which users can stamp images of hats, tattoos, muscles and more on their Facebook photos. When the new crazy picture is complete, it can be saved, printed out and used as a coupon for a free Wild Cooler drink. This application is a rival for that of Starbucks, where users check in at the top of every hour for a chance to win a free pint of the company's new ice cream. Although the "Wild It Up" application is certainly more fun (I quite enjoyed adding a police hat and Gene Simmons tongue to a picture of myself and a friend), Starbucks has brilliantly designed their application to feed on people's obsessions. Only 800 users can win a free pint every hour, which brings the losers, or greedy winners, back to the application's homepage again and again — whether they really want that ice cream or just hate to fail.

—Posted by Elana Glowatz

Seriously, America, you really think Starbucks is the best coffee?

Posted on Fri Jun 12 2009

87709-Starbucks_Zagat copy

"Zagat says we're the country's No. 1 best coffee. Actually you said it, but Zagat repeated it (which is nice)," says Starbucks. Are you for real, America? You think Starbucks is the best coffee? You were fooled by the smiling naked mermaid mounted on every cup, or perhaps by the seemingly innocent media promotions in which Starbucks posed questions like, "What if we all cared enough to vote? Not just 54 percent of us, but 100 percent of us"? Clearly, Starbucks has become an omnipotent and dominant force. In the 1999 film Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Dr. Evil's lair is, in fact, Starbucks. I don't believe in coincidences. Not only has Starbucks taken over almost every street corner, infiltrated mainstream media and pop culture, but the brand is also aggressively forcing its way into the Internet in the form of digital ads, e-mails, Twitter, MySpace and Facebook. Enough is enough, Starbucks! Give the little guys a chance. Have we no time to pause in a small café, sip quality coffee and appreciate life, rather than turning to quick fixes like Starbucks? Ah, but look again, Starbucks won for best coffee in the fast-food section of Zagat's 2009 survey. That's like being the best of the worst. In that case, congrats Starbucks!  

—Posted by Allison Shafir

Do not patronize the union-busting meanies over at Starbucks

Posted on Wed May 20 2009

As if Starbucks didn't have enough to worry about. This video, which is "spreading through the interweb like wildfire," according to Unruly Media's Viral Video Chart, is a bit of agitprop that would do Michael Moore proud. The four-minute exposé, produced by Brave New Films for, makes a strong case that Starbucks and CEO Howard Shultz are pretty down on unions and, in at least one case, seem to have violated the National Labor Relations Act. Whatever your opinion on unions (and it's clear some YouTubers are against them), the technique of contrasting actual bitter former employees of Starbucks with Schultz's over-the-top platitudes ("We're not in the business of filling bellies. We're in the business of filling souls") will likely make some left-leaning Starbucks addicts rethink their allegiance.

—Posted by Todd Wasserman



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