The smell of Starbucks early in the morning is enough to get most customers in line, but what about the sight of a strawberry refresher or an iced caramel macchiato in your Instagram feed?
After a stressful day at work and far too much time in traffic — you deserve an afternoon pick-me-up, and that bright pink drink has probably got your attention.
Starbucks and Sonic were banking on Instagram making people thirsty during the summer season. In fact, both brands created drinks especially for promotion on Instagram during the summer — and the results did not disappoint.
Named after their appearance, Starbucks’ rainbow drinks and Sonic’s square shakes have increased brand awareness, in-store sales, and social media presence with higher engagement and more followers. Starbucks’ #pinkdrink, for example, generated 14,134 Instagram posts and 49,128 comments in less than two months, according to Adweek. Some of the top posts on Sonic’s #squareshakes hashtag have gotten more than 1,000 likes.
Food and beverage brands can learn a thing or two from these colorful, geometric drink campaigns. Exclusivity plays a big part in both brands’ strategy, as well as striking visual content. Let’s examine both campaigns:
Starbucks’ Secret Menu is Made of Rainbows and Instagram Likes
After the success of #pinkdrink, Starbucks added four more colors: orange, blue, purple and green. #Rainbowdrinks were born, giving coffee lovers everywhere the chance to discover their favorite color, and post to Instagram. A quick search of any of the five hashtags (#orangedrink, #bluedrink, #purpledrink, #pinkdrink and #greendrink) highlights the rainbow drinks’ popularity, producing posts with lots of engagement.
A single regram of their rainbow drinks brought in an astounding 440,000 likes and over 14,000 comments, one of their most engaging posts yet.
You know what they say, there's always a Starbucks at the end of the rainbow. 🌈 💛 #OrangeDrink: Orange mango juice with vanilla bean powder and a splash of coconut milk. 💙 #BlueDrink: Iced Passion Tango Tea with no water, sub soy milk and vanilla syrup. 💚 #GreenDrink: Iced Black Tea with no water, sub coconut milk and matcha. 💗 #PinkDrink: Strawberry Acai Starbucks Refreshers with no water, sub coconut milk. 💜 #PurpleDrink: Iced Passion Tango Tea with no water, sub soy milk, vanilla syrup and blackberries. Regram: @cookeatlift
Starbucks’ success is mostly due to their large, loyal Instagram following of 11 million people. Their goal was focused on word-of-mouth to get more in-store sales, rather than gaining more followers by actively promoting. They rarely post about the drinks on their brand channel, and if they do, they’re regrams from fans.
The evidence of sales is in the number of posts. By letting their followers do the talking, the rainbow drinks remained exclusive and the engagement more authentic — accumulating 1.3 million likes and 17,779 posts of customers holding their favorite rainbow drink by June, according to Adweek.
Take a #Shakebreak With a #Squareshake
On April 16th, Sonic gave people attending the Coachella Music Festival exclusive one-day access to their new line of Square Shakes, available for purchase via their Instagram ads.
Sonic partnered with culinary instagrammer, Chef Jacques La Merde, and designed the shakes specifically for Instagram using ingredients from their new line of creamery shakes. Chef Jacques mimicked the square platform by using only square ingredients (even the cherries were square) and created “the world’s first shakes designed for Instagram.”
Before the #squareshake campaign, Sonic’s Instagram channel had about 118,000 followers, so they focused more on increasing brand awareness instead of sales.
They used Coachella to attract a young, socially engaged crowd and encouraged them to like and post photos of the square shakes by making the drink cost equal to one Instagram post with the hashtag #squareshake. Sonic accomplished their goal of a greater brand presence, and grew their following to about 129,000 followers, an increase of 11,000. Not bad for a one-day-only campaign.
Sonic’s use of Instagram’s “shop on demand” feature and geo targeting also earned them bonus points and some extra press coverage. Ordering a milkshake through Sonic’s ad on Instagram, and having it hand delivered, poolside at Coachella, is a pretty nice perk.
Although as a recent case study by Mediapix points out, the campaign only generated about 26,000 likes and 1,000 comments to Sonic’s Instagram channel, and it would have been much more engaging had they partnered with a few influencers attending the festival.
Starbucks gained a lot more traction than Sonic did, but with a few influencers in the mix, geo tagging and on-demand drinks, next year might be a different story.
Are you a marketer interested in a guerrilla marketing campaign like these? You better have your eye on millennials. The problem? This tech-savvy generation of consumers is also incredibly diverse. The key to effectively engaging millennials is recognizing that a “one-size-fits-all” strategy simply won’t cut it. Read our Marketing to Millennials guide to learn all the best practices.