Starbucks and social: How Starbucks created the fourth place in coffee culture

IPA Effectiveness Awards Case Study 2018

Across seven years, Starbucks UK reallocated investment from traditional media into a social strategy which evolved as consumers’ social behaviour changed. Early focus on using social to communicate events and seasonal offers gave way to encouraging coffee cup imagery to be used as a creative focal point. Later, the brand saw opportunities for further growth and engagement by supporting the then nascent culture of self-expression and involving influencers. This case demonstrates how Starbucks UK has used social to deliver sustainable business growth and compares the business impact of investment in social and traditional media. Since 2010, it estimates that social generated almost £18m more for the brand than investing in traditional channels. It calculates the strategy returned almost £4 in additional profit for every £1 invested.

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Over the past six years social media has become an increasingly critical part of our marketing efforts and how we engage with customers. It hasn’t been a magic bullet - it’s been a continual learning process to understand what works for the brand and what people expect from us - moving from promotional events and building a fanbase to facilitating visual expression and involving influencers. Looking back, it’s fascinating to see how our approach has evolved, as social media and how people use it continues to change rapidly. This evolving approach has also informed our decision making along the way to shift more investment into these channels based on effectiveness insight provided by regular econometric analysis that has driven real business results along with positive brand metrics. Looking forward we will continue to evolve our approach and gather insights to deliver effective social media activity that remains relevant to our audiences and results in a positive ROI for the business.

Reuben Arnold, VP Brand Development and Marketing, Starbucks UK
Starbucks UK

Winners 2018

Silver Winner


Starbucks and social: How Starbucks created the fourth place in coffee culture




Starbucks UK


Manning Gottlieb OMD

Principal Authors

  • Matthew Philip - Manning Gottlieb OMD
  • Rachael Lake - Manning Gottlieb OMD

Contributing Authors

  • Faith Stevens - Annalect
  • Reuben Arnold - Starbucks UK
  • Jamie McQuary - Starbucks UK

Credited Companies

  • Starbucks UK - Brand/Client

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