Starbucks Embraces Newspapers In Launching New Coffee

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

Starbucks attracted a ton of free publicity for its nationwide 30-minute giveaway of its new “Pike Place Roast” brew on Tuesday — but the coffee-maker laid the way for the launch with a series of full-page newspaper ads.

And Starbucks is building on the launch with newspaper inserts that include a loyalty program offer.

The print campaign represents a significant change in strategy at a chain that once shunned newspaper advertising — and, for that matter, advertising in any medium.

Along with big-box discounters Wal-Mart and Costco, the ubiquitous Starbucks stores were the hardest accounts for newspapers to land. But a slowdown in store traffic as the economy slowed — and a feeling that Starbucks had grown too fast with 7,100 U.S. stores — got Starbucks executives thinking about traditional advertising, even as they worked to return the stores to their roots as aromatic places to hang out.

Even then, Starbuck’s ad outlays were nothing compared to rival Dunkin’ Donuts, for instance. According to TNS Media Intelligence, in 2007 Dunkin’ spent $116.2 million on ads in the United States. Starbucks spent $37.9 million.

The campaign to launch the milder-tasting Pike Place coffee appears to be the chain’s most intensive use of newspaper yet. A Starbuck’s spokesperson did not immediately get back to E&P with information about the size of the launch’s newspaper buys.

Starbucks placed full-page ads in newspapers across the country, showing a kind of chalk outline of the familiar Starbucks paper cup, with the only text a date: 04 08 08.

In some markets, the coffee retailer has already followed up with the loyalty card inserts. In Chicago, the insert will run in Tribune Co.’s youth-oriented commuter daily RedEye next Monday, and in the flagship Chicago Tribune on Tuesday, said the newspaper’s spokesman, Michael Dizon.

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