Social Marketing vs Cultural Marketing: A look into the strategies of two coffee giants

Starbucks vs DunkinChances are, if you’re a coffee drinker you have a preference for where you buy your coffee in order to kick start your day. Within the past few years there has been a rise in third party shops like McDonalds and Keurig cups that make the coffee consumer market extremely competitive. But even with all of this competition, there is a big chance that you either buy your morning brew from Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks. These two coffee giants control well over half the coffee market in the U.S. and have been successfully doing so for years. And, as an innocent consumer, every time you buy a Coolatta or a Frappuccino, you’re basically picking a side.

These brands weren’t always so competitive, in fact they lived side by side for years until Dunkin decided to grow its business into coffee. In the year 2000, Dunkin began to put more emphasis on their coffee through their marketing, and surely enough, by 2006 they declared Starbucks their official competitor. What’s interesting to note and also the main purpose of this blog is to take a look at how differently Dunkin and Starbucks have approached marketing themselves.

Yes, these two companies have two very distinct brands, from their choice of color palette to brand promise. They also have very different marketing strategies; one is a very classic “advertiser,” the other is more word-of-mouth-driven and holistic. Even with their different marketing strategies they both have managed to sustain long term. They continuously face ongoing challenges, yet both companies still find a way to stay relevant.

The Starbucks approach
Starbucks has built their company on promising their consumers the whole-experience concept. When you ask someone about Starbucks, you might get quality coffee, good customer service, and a great environment. Because they branded the experience, Starbucks is able to do more of a word-of-mouth approach to their marketing. It wasn’t until 2007 that they ran their first T.V. campaign for their line of canned espresso. Since then, they still do a bit of traditional advertising, but still rely on the connection between customers.

Because of this personal method, Starbucks heavily focuses on making sure the in-store customer experiences are just as up to par as the quality of coffee they sell. Their barista’s not only sell coffee, they are trained and certified brand ambassadors. The result, the brand not only became a cultural presence, but they also transcended the way we consume coffee by making it a lifestyle brand. But basing your brand on a whole-experience means that the experience better be smooth and ejoyable. When the brand relies on experience alone without advertising, one wrong move in their brand promise could be explosive.

Dunkin Loves Advertising
Historically, Dunkin Donuts has always been a traditional advertiser, but being as old of a company as it is, Dunkin has done a lot of evolving to keep up with digital and social times in order to stay relevant. To be on top of an ever-growing market, Dunkin tries its best to listen to their consumers. The brand wants to hear fan stories, retell them, and be genuinely involved with them. They make sure to stay diverse by communicating across all platforms to leverage those relationships. By using this strategy, Dunkin is forced to constantly stay on top of trends and be constantly interactive.

Coexisting rivals
Although Dunkin leverages their online and social presence as a part of their focal point for marketing, Starbucks still manages to have 37 million social followers compared to Dunkin’s 12 million. But, what may be contributing to their equal successes is their demographics. Starbucks caters mostly to the college age, early adapters, and music enthusiasts. Comparatively Dunkin focuses on social moms, sports fanatics, and family travelers. But Dunkin, although being the older brand, shows us that with an older marketing strategy as your foundation, any brand can evolve and grow to keep up with new marketing strategies.

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