Starbucks’ Pitch: ‘It’s Not Just Coffee’

NEW YORK After years of allowing fast-food competitors to take potshots at its high-priced coffee, traditionally advertising-shy Starbucks is fighting back with an ad campaign that reminds consumers “It’s not just coffee. It’s Starbucks.”

“The coffee world is getting increasingly crowded and competitive and there is a conversation about coffee that is being had and we have not been a part of it,” said Terry Davenport, CMO of Starbucks. “There are many things we do — from the quality of our coffee to the values we have as a company — that are very relevant.”
The current economic environment and the shift in consumer behavior from “conspicuous consumption to considered consumption” provides Starbucks with a well-timed opportunity for telling its larger brand story, he said.

“When we come out of this, consumers will fundamentally be in a different place,” said Davenport. “They are looking harder at the brands they buy and want to do business with people who are like-minded. Some of the very things that consumers are looking for have been what we’re doing. We feel we’ve got tremendous stories we can go out there and tell.”

The “Coffee value and values” campaign from BBDO begins to tell that story on Sunday with a copy-heavy manifesto newspaper ad written by the agency’s North American CCO David Lubars.

“Starbucks made its name as a humble, modest company and its values haven’t changed,” said Lubars, stressing the “soulness” of the company and its practices, from its partnerships with fair-trade farmers to the fact that it offers healthcare benefits to part-time employees. “We are not in the cheap coffee business. We are in the incredible coffee business that is of good value.”

The campaign kicks off with print and out-of-home and will later extend to in-store and online initiatives. “Beware of a cheaper cup of coffee,” warns the copy in one ad fashioned to look like burlap coffee-bean bags. “It comes with a price.”  Other ads encourage consumers to “Pour your heart into it” and declare: “Starbucks or nothing. Because compromise leaves a really bad aftertaste.”

The company is also starting an employee outreach effort next week that will take the communications program into store. Using a new online tool called “Did You Know,” Starbucks will highlight a different company fact each day. (Examples: it buys the world’s best coffee beans purchases more Fair Trade coffee than any company in the world.) This will allow employees — or baristas, as they are called — to pass the information on to their customers.

Starbucks posted a video on its site and on YouTube explaining its strategy, as well as a blog post from Davenport on