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Frappuccino Happy Hour: Starbucks’ Mystical Flavor Influx Muted Its Midnight Mint Mocha Marketing

By Kellan Terry on May 5th 2017

Branding. People get paid to focus exclusively on branding, and the paramount of branding is when your company, product or service becomes a verb. Notable examples of this are most commonly associated with tech giants and phrases like, “Google it,” or “I’ll Facebook you.” Statements like these make branding professionals giddy.

Just below verb status is ubiquity. Brands like Kleenex and Band-Aid have become the acknowledgement of every tissue and… small, adhesive bandage no matter which brand actually manufactures the product.

Underneath these two tiers of branding prominence we have Starbucks. While coffee, and coffee chains, may not all be thought of as Starbucks, the green and white mermaid is certainly the first thing you think about when you hear “frappuccino.”

Starbucks has customer loyalty. Starbucks receives headlines whenever they introduce new cup designs, or change their seasonal drinksStarbucks as a brand is doing well.

However, there is always room for improvement.

It all started with the Unicorn Frappuccino. I’ll let you decide for yourself if this stunt paid off.

Since April 12 – the day before the Unicorn Frappuccino was announced – the inaugural schtick-drink has been mentioned more than 233,000 times online.

More so, the drink has been discussed positively within the sentiment-categorized mentions from the same timeframe at a ratio of 69.9% positive.

Counterpoint: we found over 3,500 social mentions from people who claimed to be baristas, and they spoke negatively about the Unicorn Frappuccino at a rate of 68.9% of all their sentiment-categorized mentions.

Not to mention there was a somewhat viral video of an alleged Starbucks barista who had quite a bit to say about the drink, and it wasn’t great.

In my opinion, the Unicorn Frappuccino was a marketing success; a shooting star that shone brightly and briefly before it burned out quickly – as intended. My real issue followed the Unicorn Frappuccino.

I’m referencing the Dragon Frappuccino, Mermaid Frappuccino, and the Whatever-Mythical-Creature-You-Can-Think-Of-Next Frappuccino. 

Despite the many issues baristas had with the Unicorn Frappuccino, some took it upon themselves to create these new and similarly mythically named concoctions. These drinks only teased, and perpetuated the social conversation, and may have come across as contrived, but received attention nonetheless.

The Dragon Frappuccino only registered around 5,600 online mentions, and the Mermaid Frappuccino saw even fewer at 4,800. These drinks may have been an attempt to capitalize off of the massive social reception of the Unicorn Frappuccino, and their conception made in jest. However, the very real Midnight Mint Mocha Frappuccino also saw a dull social reaction with just around 6,200 mentions.

These previously stated flavors at no time threatened to accrue more mentions than the Unicorn Frappuccino who received more than 54,000 on April 19 alone. Relatively speaking, the other flavors are a non-factor online.

One initiative that’s gaining ground is Starbucks’ Frappuccino Happy Hour. This event, which begins today and runs through May 14, is being talked about quite positively with 88.2% of categorized mentions being positive.

“Frappy Hour” and the Unicorn Frappuccino were undoubtedly social successes, but the creativity and savvy behind the Dragon and Mermaid Frappuccinos overshadowed the official Midnight Mint Mocha flavor.

There were a couple days where consumers assumed they’d wake up to a new flavor each morning, and this expectation hurt the Midnight Mint Mocha’s social conversation which prevented it from making a true splash.

Moving forward, Starbucks can relish and nurture its viral moments, by all means, but need to communicate their corporate unveiling schedule to its employees on the front line dealing with customers.

We have a habit of being harshly reminded that bottom lines matter most in business, and the quest for the continued Unicorn conversation may have stolen the spotlight from a true, new product, and the revenue it might generate.

Are you a journalist looking to use our data? Email react@brandwatch.com for more information


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  • Gary Earley

    This is awesome.

  • Abigail Juaneza-Arbis

    Honestly I really don’t like the taste of it. But many collegues love it. Nice one for starbucks

    SMDC Condo Philippines

  • Abhishek Singh

    Starbucks is my first priority when it comes to coffee!