Starbucks & Nescafe – Counterproductive Nescafe Campaign?

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So… Starbucks is Starbucks. Their brand is synonymous with luxury all over the world. Numerous books have been written regarding what Starbucks has done to create such strong brand equity with a commodity – my personal favorite The Starbucks Experience – regarding the brand (love it, or hate it), behind the coffee giant.

As the recession deepens, Starbucks is feeling the pain with an 8% decrease to $2.3B in the first quarter of 2009. Expenses were reduced to $120 Million while consumers become stingier with their discretionary income but still feeding their need for caffeine.

(This is an ad campaign from May-ish of 2009 – Post originally published on my Blogger blog, but am transitioning some content over)Combatting the ideas that their coffee is more expensive than it is worth, Starbucks unveiled a new campaign (part of the city wall poster seen above). CEO, Howard Schultz, discusses the Starbucks story – “It’s not just coffee. It’s Starbucks” here. Starbucks, Schultz asserts, will break outside of it’s coffee bean shell. With the historic campaign (Starbucks is not an avid advertising company), Starbucks will focus on their overall experience, rather than the coffee itself.

Makes sense, in the middle of the recession, as consumers do not have the time, and quite frankly no one looks to brand names when they are on unsure of their job stability, to promote “Starbucks Via”, a ready-brew, at a fraction of the cost, as an attempt to stay on top of the easy-to-self-make coffee drink capturing (possibly recapturing) market share lost to McCafe and cheaper coffee alternatives.

Taking a look at a concurrent coffee advertising campaign – Nescafe, on the other hand, is trying to capitalize on the Anti-Starbucks sentiment shared by numerous consumers. As a corporate conglomorate, Starbucks faces criticism for their “over-priced” coffee, labor issues, fair trade, real estate practices, et al. The Nescafe campaign, part of which can be seen in the photos above, is counterproductive.

As seen on many billboards, specifically in the Chicagoland area, their usage of “Starbucks Via” as the front runner of the text on their campaign, might be causing the opposite of their initial intent. Driving in my car, on the bus, walking my dogs, “Stabucks Via” is the first thing that I see. Capturing an audience that is mobile (as with most forms of OOH advertising), marketers and advertisers have a limited time to capture their audience. The message is completely lost amidst the Starbucks campaign itself, further fueling brand recognition for Starbucks. Arguably, “Starbucks Via” is more compelling than the Nescafe logo at the bottom of their ad.

Not the smartest move, Nescafe. The message makes sense, the Anti-Starbucks target makes sense. The media chosen is too expensive to share the platform with the competition. Nescafe is advertising for Starbucks. They are sharing their message with an organization that they are trying to combat. They are using precious marketing and advertising dollars in an economically sensitive time to further promote a brand they are advertising against…

(This campaign originally ran in April-May of 2009.  My original post was on Blogger on May, 18, 2009)