Skip to content

5 Starbucks Marketing Strategies To Copy To Sell More Food

5 Starbucks Marketing Strategies To Copy To Sell More Food

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on google
Google+
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

According to the latest 2021 data, Starbucks is a $13 billion corporation. For any business, this is impressive. For a coffee chain, it’s massive. So, how does a $13 billion coffee chain gain millions of social media engagements and get people to always buy from them?

The Starbucks brand is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. This is thanks, in no small part, to a carefully crafted marketing strategy.

The Starbucks marketing strategy is a well-oiled strategy that positions the brand for continuous success. While it helps that they have a million-dollar marketing war chest, you don’t need that much to emulate them.

In this article, we’d go over some of the guiding principles of the Starbucks marketing strategy. We’ll also cover actionable ways you can replicate this strategy to grow your food brand.

1. Decoy Effect

5 Starbucks Marketing Strategies To Copy To Sell More Food 1

The “decoy effect” is also known as the asymmetrical dominance theory. This theory refers to a phenomenon where customers are pushed into a change in preference between two options, through the offer of a third option.

To understand how this works, let’s take a closer look at Starbucks coffee offering. There are always three coffee cup sizes on offer: Tall, Grande, Venti. This is not by accident.

Having two cup sizes makes comparison of both cups easy. You easily compare them for size and prizing to determine which gives you the best bang for your buck. But what if there’s a third option?

This third option is the decoy option. It is typically inferior in all aspects in respect to one option, but superior in some aspects to the other option and inferior in others.

5 Starbucks Marketing Strategies To Copy To Sell More Food 2
Photo source: theuijunkie

Its role is to make comparison more difficult, while psychologically pushing you towards a specific option. Research shows that customers are more likely to select the option which dominates the decoy option.

For Starbucks, the ideal psychological option is ‘Grande’. By spending an extra dollar, you get double the amount of coffee, making it seem like a great deal.

5 Starbucks Marketing Strategies To Copy To Sell More Food 3

Other big brands which deploy the decoy effect to great results are McDonald’s, Apple, and Netflix.

Opportunity For You

The decoy effect is a brilliant pricing strategy. It drives customers towards your desired option – the option where you profit the most.

To deploy the decoy effect, you’d need at least three pricing options. The ideal option is always in the middle.

This option is cheaper than the last, but only slightly more expensive than the first. It also offers a lot more value than the first. Used correctly, customers would select your desired option without much consideration.

2. Cheerleader Effect

5 Starbucks Marketing Strategies To Copy To Sell More Food 4

The “cheerleader effect” is also known as the group attractiveness effect. This theory holds that individuals may seem more attractive when they’re part of a group.

Applied to the food industry, it holds that a menu item would look more attractive when in a group with other food items, than when standing alone.

Think about it, which image looks more appealing: a lonely cup of coffee or a coffee with muffin? An isolated side burger or a burger with fries and drinks?

5 Starbucks Marketing Strategies To Copy To Sell More Food 5

If you selected any of the combo options, then the cheerleader effect has a hold on you – much like the rest of us.

This powerful marketing hack makes your offer more appealing. This is why Starbucks mostly advertises items in groups. Group pictures evoke the emotional feeling of consuming the entire group item.

Opportunity For You

How can you harness the cheerleader effect in your marketing?

If you’re selling beverages, show them in pairs with other beverages to improve their appeal. If you’re selling a meal, present it with a glass of wine or a side dish to make it more attractive.

A more appealing presentation encourages more customers to buy from you.


Level Up Your Food Marketing

5 Starbucks Marketing Strategies To Copy To Sell More Food 6

Want to market your food business like McDonald’s, Chipotle, Starbucks, or Dunkin?

Well we’ve compiled 140+ marketing tactics and psychological tricks that these huge food brands use to sell millions of dollars worth of food every year and get customers to LOVE them more in Food Marketing Labs Database.

That way you have the same marketing tactics the big brands do and level the playing field.


3. Cashless Effect

5 Starbucks Marketing Strategies To Copy To Sell More Food 7

The “cashless effect” is the third psychological hack in the Starbucks marketing strategy. This theory describes our willingness to spend more when physical money isn’t involved in a transaction.

Research indicates we’re more likely to spend when we don’t have to give up the physical cash in our possession. This explains why cashless payments, gift cards, and credit cards all increase our spend.

For restaurateurs and food businesses like Starbucks, adherence to this theory involves abandoning the dollar signs in menu pricing.

In fact, according to one research work, removing the dollar sign from menus increases each transaction value by about 8%.

5 Starbucks Marketing Strategies To Copy To Sell More Food 8

Starbucks also offers alternative, cashless payment systems like gift cards and mobile apps. This powerful combination harnesses the full power of the cashless effect.

Opportunity For You

Following this strategy is simple. To deploy the cashless effect, remove the dollar signs from your menu.

4. Charm Pricing

5 Starbucks Marketing Strategies To Copy To Sell More Food 9

Like most marketing strategies on this list, “charm pricing” aims to psychologically improve the perceived value of an item.

Also known as psychological pricing, this pricing strategy deploys odd numbers – typically nines – to improve the perceived value of an item and convince shoppers to buy.

When faced with prices ending in a 9 or 99 while shopping, the human brain makes snap judgments about its value. For instance, a $2.99 price may seem cheaper than a $3 price because your brain associates $2.99 with $2 rather than $3.

Although this pricing strategy is mostly used when an item is on sale, companies like McDonald’s have made it a household pricing strategy.

For Starbucks, they push it a step further. Their prices always end with a ‘5’ rather than a ‘9’, with price endings like .95, .45, and .65 a staple on their menu.

Why so?

Well, although charm pricing works so well, it tends to be mentally associated with a deal. If you’re selling a luxury item, this is a major sticking point as you’d rather be known for your product than your price.

5 Starbucks Marketing Strategies To Copy To Sell More Food 10

Starbucks’ response to this dilemma is to use price endings of ‘5’. This keeps the charm pricing effect, without signaling that the product is of a low quality, or is a deal.

This alternate strategy is more in keeping with Starbucks’ image as a premium coffee brand, rather than a cheap coffee option.

Opportunity For You

Be sure to end your product’s pricing with cents ending in odd numbers. This psychologically triggers your customers to believe they’re getting the best prices for your products.

Should you end your prices with a 9 or a 5, though?

Your answer should be dependent on how you wish to position your brand. If your desire is to appear as the cheapest option in the market, then a 9-ending price system would do you good.

If, however, you want to redirect the focus to the quality of your product rather than the price, a 5-ending pricing strategy would be best. This option maintains value, while offering a deal.

5. Endowment Effect

5 Starbucks Marketing Strategies To Copy To Sell More Food 11

To understand how the endowment effect works, think of any property you own, say your phone. Pause your reading and go check its market value. How much is it worth on the market? Now, how much is it worth to you?

My guess is, the market value is much lower than your perceived value of the phone. This is the endowment effect.

The endowment effect is an emotional bias that makes individuals value objects they already own higher than they would if they didn’t own it.

A key marketing strategy for Starbucks is built around this endowment effect. One way they trigger it is by asking for your name and writing it on your cup of coffee.

Your name on the cup gives you a psychological sense of ownership. Starbucks baristas are, thus, trained to write customer names, with the liberty to put some character into it.

They even take things further by conspiratorially misspelling names on purpose. These playfully written names then push people to happily share their coffee cups on social media. Thus, in addition to a sense of ownership, the strategy turns customers into a free ad provider.

In fact, the #starbucksnamefail hashtag is a huge one on Instagram, with over 28k posts.

5 Starbucks Marketing Strategies To Copy To Sell More Food 12

Starbucks doesn’t just stop at name customization, though. Customers can customize every aspect of their drink, with over 170,00 ways to customize a drink.

This act of curation makes your drink feel more personal, as though it were prepared just for you. It is a very powerful deployment of the endowment effect.

Opportunity For You

Does this mean you should go out there and begin misspelling your customers’ names? Not really…

The takeaway is to find ways to trigger a sense of ownership in your customers. This could be by writing their names down, and infusing character into the writing to make it more likeable.

But it could also be by allowing for customization. Allowing your customers customize their meals or beverages makes them feel like their purchases are designed just for them. It allows them feel like they’re a part of the furniture at your shop.

Triggering a sense of belonging in your customers would make them more willing to become return customers who spread the word about your brand everywhere they go.

Employing the Starbucks Marketing Mix

If you’ve followed the piece closely, you’d realize that the Starbucks marketing mix goes beyond just promotion. It also incorporates the pricing and the product.

Starbucks marketing strategy is built around triggering a psychological sense of value in each customer. This marketing mix is summarized as follows: the product is premium, it is yours, and its pricing is the best.

As you can see, you don’t need a million-dollar marketing war chest to follow in Starbucks footsteps. Instead, be sure to harness the free parts of their strategy. Start small, play smart, and keep refining your playbook until you find what works best.

Level Up Your Food Marketing

5 Starbucks Marketing Strategies To Copy To Sell More Food 6

Want to market your food business like McDonald’s, Chipotle, Starbucks, or Dunkin?

Well we’ve compiled 140+ marketing tactics and psychological tricks that these huge food brands use to sell millions of dollars worth of food every year and get customers to LOVE them more in Food Marketing Labs Database.

That way you have the same marketing tactics the big brands do and level the playing field.

You May Also Like