The figure to the right shows the current promotional materials used throughout the Starbucks locations to promote the Christmas Blend.
In addition, Starbucks is offering coupons on Christ Blend bundles with coffee mugs and discount pricing on the combination of these two items. The promotion strategy is aimed at sustaining the pricing and margins on bundles with the brand loyalty that the Christmas Blend evokes (Starbucks Investor Relations). Finally, the promotional strategy is specifically focused on uniting and strengthening the experience of visiting a Starbucks, getting a fresh, hot cup of Christmas Bland and enjoying the holidays with friends. This approach to experience-based marketing built around the Christmas Blend continues to be one of the most effective differentiator the company has against competitors, both national and regional in scope (Dobnik, 23, 24).
Place or Distribution
The experience of having a fresh, hot cup of Christmas Blend is at the center of the marketing strategies for this product. Starbucks has successfully expanded this brands' presence throughout several different distribution channels, including retailing, in-store displays at mass merchandisers, online sales and the most well-known, in-store purchase of bags (Starbucks Investor Relations). Starbucks continues to expand its multichannel focus on the Christmas Blend specifically, given its pervasive appeal and its best-selling status within the company, leading to record sales on December 2, 2010 of this year (Engleman, 122). As the Christmas Blend has been selling for 26 years, there is a large and very loyal customer base for this specific blend. Starbucks has led its multichannel selling efforts with it as a result, often choosing to expand channels during the holidays as retailers, resellers and store manager are assured of higher sales (Starbucks Investor Relations).
The packaging of the Christmas Blend is festive and evokes the emotions that Starbucks is trying to associate with the experience of consuming the drink. The packaging is designed to also be festive and associate the coffee with all that is the most positive about the season. The packaging of this years' Christmas Blend is shown to the right.
Starbucks' most entrenched and challenging competitor is Dunkin' Donuts located throughout the Northeastern U.S. And throughout the upper Midwest. The second-largest competitor is Caribou Coffee, which is located throughout the Central and Northwestern U.S. While these competitors have strong customer bases and steady increases in new products, they cannot match the speed of innovation Starbucks has or the commitment to the Starbucks Christmas Bland, considered to be one of the most successful seasonal beverage products ever launched by a food retailer or chain (Engleman, 122). Competitors will continue to battle on price or innovative nature of their drinks or food, yet Starbucks has been able to hold onto the integrating of brands of coffee and the in-store experience, which continues to give them a significant competitive advantage.
Starbucks needs to continually look for ways to bring greater value to the customer and further solidify loyalty to the Christmas Blend to ensure it stays popular over time. The company needs to provide a greater chance of customers to have a voice in the marketing as well. Using a video content for example would be useful, as it would get the customers involved and give them a chance to say what they think and why they are loyal. In addition to this being an excellent way to understand its customers, Starbucks could also find out how to further serve them and make them more loyal over time as well.
Figure 1: Winter, 1985 Internal Company Announcement
Christmas Blend Is an Employee Favorite in the winter of 1985, as can be seen from this internal announcement
Winter, 1994 Announcement to Channel Partners and Store management
1996 -- 2000 Ad Campaign Aligning Christmas Blend and winter
Melissa Allison. (8 November 2007). Ho, ho, Howard Schultz, it's Christmas Blend time. McClatchy - Tribune Business News.
Verena Dobnik, Associated Press. "Mom-and-pop coffee shops prepare for war with Goliath. " Journal Record 24 Jun 1997,
Engleman, Eric. (10 December 2010). Starbucks CEO on holiday sales and other highlights of 2010 read more: Starbucks ceo on holiday sales and other highlights of 2010. Puget Sound Business Journal, 122(122), Retrieved from http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/blog/2010/12/starbucks-ceos-end-of-year-message-to.html