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Customizing Your Marketing Message – Case Study: Starbucks Blonde Roast



April 2014
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There are many times in marketing when “one size doesn’t fit all”. Most companies have more than one target audience, which may vary by age, gender, socio-economic status, location, interests, etc. In order to reach each audience appropriately, it’s often necessary to create different and customized messaging.

To show this in action, let’s look at Starbucks and their new Blonde Roast.

Last year Starbucks announced a product launch of a lighter roasted coffee called a Blonde Roast. Starbucks realized that many coffee drinkers found their dark and medium blends too strong and thus weren’t going to Starbucks for their coffee fix. (54 million coffee drinkers in the U.S. said they prefer a lighter roast coffee).

Wanting to get a share of this market, the coffee company created a lighter “subtle, softer, mellower” brew.

Comparing the advertising for the US and Canadian markets we can see some clear differences

The advertising in the US has a greater focus on Starbucks acknowledging many people like a lighter tasting coffee and how Starbucks is addressing this need. It also uses the general words “everyone” and “they”.

On the other hand, the Canadian advertising consistently uses “Canadian(s)” as part of the messaging. Starbucks knows Canadians like to think of themselves as unique and different from Americans. Starbucks plays on this by stating on their website and in some advertising “In fact, Canadians drink twice as much Blonde Roast as Americans”.

Something else Starbucks did to emphasize the uniqueness of Canadians is host a contest to name one of the Blonde Roast blends.

Further, this helps to give Canadians ownership and strengthen ties with the Starbucks brand.

In this example, the main difference between the two target audiences is nationality. However, even if you don’t have a multi-national company, the same principle of customization applies to your business.

When preparing your annual marketing plan (you have one, right?) think about the particularities of your audiences and what are the best methods, tactics and messaging to approach them. In order to have effective marketing, you need to reach people where they are and using language that speaks to their unique position.


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