This week Starbucks in the UK has shown it's skillful marketing muscle in two ways (NB In the interests of full disclosure I have to confess to NOT being a SBUX hater, sure I will support and drink from independent coffee shops wherever they present themselves but I support SBUX in their vision to create a coffee culture and the bathrooms and wifi are not unhelpful).
The first free coffee, or should I say about 8 free lattes, comes courtesy of their launch of a new espresso bean option, Guatemala Antigua. Check the SBUX website every morning, grab the 'code word' and you can pick up your free latte between 0930 and 1130 ! I'm not sure if you were meant to do this only once - but there seems to be no registration so for a week I'm not putting quite so much money back into their coffers. But on a serious note it's a good way of driving trial and sustaining their credentials as more than just a fast coffee place.
The other free coffee is their just announced program based on the concept of "banking or suspending a coffee". The concept of paying for two coffees, drinking one and leaving the cash for another hot drink for someone who is deserving of a free drink has been talked about for some time and last week started to appear in my own Facebook newstream. Now Starbucks have announced that they will be adopting the policy in the UK.
They have diluted the proposition a little, and rather than the coffee being given to the needy from the location you banked it the money will go to Oasis, the community charity who will distribute. I think this breaks the tangible link between 'leaving money' behind the counter of your local SBUX knowing that potentially the homeless person you walk past two minutes later could pick up that coffee. However, the doubling up of the donation (SBUX double the value of your contribution) makes up for this. Ian Cranna deserves praise for both speedily adopting the principle and making it work. I'm sure others will follow.