Saturday, June 10, 2006

Akeelah stings Starbucks, now what?

Marketing Begins At Home is critical of Starbuck's initial foray into movie marketing, by noting that the coffee store chain pumped $20 million into its marketing plan for a movie that took home less than that at the box office.


But the big question is, what does Starbucks do now? I'm sure they aren't going to stop marketing movies because Akeelah and the Bee stunk it up at the box office, but will they alter their promotional campaign for the next movie they feature?

This is what I wrote about this promotion 2 months ago on BMA:
But the key to the success of the in-store promotion will likely come from the Starbucks employees, or baristas. Each barista has either been given an advance screener copy of the movie to watch, or a DVD containing the trailer. I would have made sure that every barista had an advance screener to see the whole film, which I think is a great idea. Where they lose me is that they are 'encouraging' the baristas to discuss the film with customers. This IMO is a very fine line to walk, as many baristas might be too 'pushy' with their promotion of the film. IMO it would have been better to give all the baristas the complete screener, then let them bring up the movie naturally, if a customer mentions it, or is seen interacting with one of the in-store promotional materials. That way you could organically create the 'wow this must be a good movie because everyone has seen it' buzz.

As expected, it was a fine-line that Starbucks apparently tripped over. Both Chris Thilk and Joe Jaffe noted that the problem wasn't that the baristas were too pushy in promoting the film, but rather that they knew little to nothing about it. Both gentlemen found that the baristas at the Starbucks they visited didn't know what the film was about, and when Chris asked one employee what training materials she had been given on the film, she acted embarrassed and avoided the question.

It seems as if Starbucks went heavy on in-store signage and promotional materials, and skimmed on actually educating their employees on what the movie was about, and why anyone would care to see it. But even the in-store promotional material missed the mark, as many customers mistook words on their green cup sleeves that were meant to tie-into promotion for Akeelah, as actually being new coffee flavors.

This promotion had a very small window of opportunity for success. That window relied on making sure that baristas had seen and understood the film before the promotion ever began, then allow them to promote the film to customers NATURALLY, not by pushing it on customers that weren't interested.

Of course, the temptation to throw gobs of cash into in-store promotional materials was too great for Starbucks to resist. Instead, Bux would have been much better off, and their customers would have been much happier, if they had cut back on the in-store marketing, and instead educated their employees about Akeelah and the Bee. That way, when a customer asked their opinion of the movie, the baristas could give a valid opinion on Akeelah, and create buzz for the movie naturally.

My advice to Howard? If you have a second movie promotion, scale back on the in-store marketing, and empower your baristas to ORGANICALLY create word-of-mouth buzz for the film. This way, you don't confuse/anger your customers with a barrage of in-store materials, and you shift from marketing TO the community, to marketing WITH your community.

Try it, you might like it!


Anonymous said...

Good post Mack. You've also got to wonder what they were thinking promoting a kids movie (or at least that was my perception), in a place that is not really targeted for kids? The only people bringing there kids in starbucks are people who don't mind spending $4 on an orange juice for their kid. Hmm, "parents willing to spend $4 on a single orange juice" thats got to be the smallest demographic ever :-)

Anonymous said...

That promotion was so weak. I'd been impressed by the music stuff. You walk in, you hear the music, you find out or know that it's an exclusive Starbuck's product (I think that was the case). I'd also read about the cds in the news.

I asked about the music once and the guy didn't even know if that was playing but he got into the spirit of things and had some basic info or was good at fronting. Nevertheless, hearing it and having it there to buy is what caught my interest.

The Akeelah promotion just seemed like adspace at Starbuck's (far less newsworthy) and I'm not sure barista conversations would have done the trick though it sounds weird that folks at Starbuck's didn't get training materials of some kind. That's such a basic practice in retail and food service that it sounds like Starbuck's dropped the ball quite heavily.

As KK Long comments, I'm not in the demographic for that movie and didn't even ask about it. I can't remember ever seeing a child in Starbuck's, even the one on the corner of a Harris Teeter.

The key to me with the music was in being able to directly experience it in an organic way, i.e. it's the music playing in the store, not a straight up ad.

If they had launched a special product related to the movie, something you could consume that would have a direct tie-in, that might have gotten them a little closer.

But I'm looking forward to seeing what they try next.

Anonymous said...

It's ashame, because it was actually a great movie. My wife loved it. We went to the sneak preview and hyped it up to all of our friends, but people just weren't interested or the movie was gone by the time they went to go see it.