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Starbucks, the American coffee company and the popular coffeehouse chain expanded its operations to India a few years back in 2012. Café Coffee Day, lovingly called CCD, has had the largest presence in the country and therefore, poses as Starbucks’s strongest competition. With a business objective, like many international food chains, Starbucks sure wants to increase it mass market reach and invest on new growth platforms in India. For this, the coffee chain adopted a strategy focusing on digital media while making use of a few outdoor campaigns for its store launches, in hope of building a stronger customer relationship and higher consumer engagement. In order to achieve its business objectives, Starbucks decided to launch a Facebook app called ‘My Starbucks Brew’ which allowed participants to select their favourite beverage and win a chance to get gifts from Starbucks India. Following the campaign, in the beginning of the year 2014, Starbucks had gained 195 thousand likes on Facebook and 5363 followers on Twitter against the market leader CCD that had a whopping 4 million Facebook fans and 14,896 Twitter followers. Other big coffee chains like Costa Coffee enjoyed 669 followers and 2,04,000 likes, whereas, Barista Lavaza was popular among 1612 followers and 2,44,000 Facebook likes. These numbers are one of the major influential factors and therefore, Starbucks had to come up with something thoughtful and unique to India in order to increase its online presence in the Indian market.

Since Starbucks is focused specifically on the Internet for increasing consumer involvement and participation as a part of the organization’s co-creation strategies, this seemed like a perfect opportunity to bring in the ‘My Starbucks Idea’ in India as well. Starbucks started an online community called My Starbucks Idea a few years ago in the USA to engage people with the brand and drive its popularity amongst them. Under this campaign, customers logged on to My Starbucks Idea to pitch in their service improvement or new product ideas to the brand. Once a number of ideas were posted, other customers would vote, comment and give add-ons, which subsequently helped Starbucks to rate the posts. This online American community has a vast number of members already and has been increasing day by day. The factors that primarily interest consumers to post ideas in the online community, the My Starbucks Idea, involve the psychological satisfaction and the social connection the consumers feel with the brand being a part of their campaign. The empowerment felt by the consumers lead to a high consumer participation in the community.

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How did this work?

There was a leader board to track all activities in the community – consumers who were most active in submitting ideas, ideas that got the maximum number of positive responses, consumers who were voting and commenting on other’s ideas – and gave points on completing the afore mentioned actions. Customers were also given badges like ‘Top Voter’, ‘Top Commenter’ and ‘Idea Launched’. This was another reason for the active member participation. Consumers, naturally, felt delighted when Starbucks launched their ideas as products. Whereas, for other participants, it became like a fun game where they compete to be identified as one of the highest voters or get likes and have long comment discussions.

What do we know, what did we learn?

The My Starbucks Idea campaign turned all tables around in favor of Starbucks which now enjoy 823 thousand fans on Facebook and 55 thousand followers on Twitter. The lone factor that drove major consumer attention to the community in terms of posting new ideas was the psychological factor that got in a sense of control in the minds of the participants. Starbucks, very smarty engaged people into a social media-like platform that was appealing and pleasant to the customers. Further, Starbucks gave psychological rewards to the participants in terms of appreciation such as listing top participants on the community page among the thousands of members. My Starbucks Idea was the right choice for Starbucks that struck a chord with the hugely emotional Indian consumer and gained inroads into the Indian hearts.

Consumers in India tend to take quicker decisions based on emotions. Hence, to leverage them, an emotional appeal is essential. Like Starbucks, this can be accomplish by demonstrating an attachment for the consumers and simultaneously forming a relationship with them. Earlier, branding strategies used to be about the market share and just acquiring a large number of consumers. However, as standards of living enhanced, branding became more consumer-centric and story-driven in approach for fabricating better relation between consumers and the brand.

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