Marketing Tricks: Starbucks Free Pastry; McDonald’s Free Mocha Mondays

free starbucks

Special promotions are designed to make an impact on the impulsive buyer. They change often, they have a time limit, and they usually don’t suffice for every customer (supplies are limited).

Special promotions happen all the time; there is a special promotion every day, in every little shop I know. The bakery across the street from our office has every day a “buy one get one free” type of deal. The Chinese restaurant always offers a complimentary free drink after each meal; the Greek restaurant welcomes you with a shot of Ouzo; and the list could go on. So what’s the big deal if Starbucks decides to give free pastry with the purchase of a beverage? Aren’t Starbucks’ beverages seriously overpriced already?!

The impression of “freebies” is an old marketing trick; however, this time Starbucks used the Web to boost its sales in the US by offering a printable invitation on its website. The “event” became a hot trend on Twitter, Facebook and it even become one of the most popular search phrases in Google Trends. From a PR perspective, we can only admire Starbucks’ strategy: take an old marketing trick, add some social media flavor and voila: a strong brand push and great ROI at a fraction of what this type of promotion would have cost offline.

Well, Starbuck is not the only company that uses the old leading with the carrot trick (but it’s really amazing that people really fall for it). McDonalds resumed on July 13 its Free McCafe Mocha Mondays offer. McDonald’s is trying to promote its new line of premium espresso drinks with this move – the free mocha is nothing but a “sample” drink. But unlike Starbucks, which conditions its freebies with a purchase, McDonald’s understands that a giveaway is a giveaway – no strains attached.

Starbucks and McDonald’s compete in this case: they are both trying to sell more coffee. For me, drinking mocha at McDonald’s is something out of place: I cannot see myself enjoying a cup of coffee in a place that smells like stale French fries’ grease. As far as Starbucks is concerned, the company has always managed to keep a standard of quality in its shops, and all my experiences (limited to European countries) are positive. Too bad that Starbucks doesn’t have the intelligence to make its “special promotion” global when they start an online campaign of such magnitude.

Among other Public Relations companies, Starbucks has worked with Crenshaw Communications, Dentsu Public Relations & Edelman.

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