How Starbucks Makes Relationships Central to Content

4 min read

A Loyal Female Customer Holding Two Starbucks Beverages During Marketing Promotion On Location

When it comes to coffee, the first name that comes to mind is Starbucks. The company has diehard fans and supporters. Depending on where you live, Starbucks could be at every strategic corner. Each store is packed with regulars. People come for the great coffee, experience, and what the brand represents. As digital brand consultants, we know that just the right marketing strategy can boost brand awareness, loyalty and propel your brand to new heights. 

Marketing Management

When the company went public under Howard Schultz in 1992, everything was good. However, when Schultz stepped down as CEO in 2000, things began to dwindle and when Schultz returned in 2008, their stock had decreased in value to the point where the end seemed inevitable.

Starbucks had to come up with a new strategy that propelled them forward and that they could also depend on for the long term. Simon Sinek’s book, The Infinite Game, stresses the importance of distinguishing the short game and the infinite game. One plays for quick returns. The other strives to succeed for generations.

Starbucks developed a strategy that helped them jumpstart their growth but also grew into a sustainable strategy for years to come.

Every brand will likely go through a moment like this. That’s why it is important to regularly revise your marketing strategy and ask yourself if it is built for the future of the company. 

Starbucks - Building Relationships

Starbucks realized that marketing involved building relationships and they hurried on to capitalize on this idea. So how did they do this? They tried their best to provide customers with comfort and peace at their stores. You may remain at a Starbucks store for hours on end without being subject to dirty looks by the management. Their goal has been to satisfy customers as best as they possibly can.

Apart from that, they formed relationships with various customers, businesses, non-profit organizations, and others that would aid them in achieving a positive change. 

Each of these relationships has proven to be useful as they each bring a certain set of diverse skills and expertise to the table. By fostering these relationships, Starbucks has been able to come up with innovative ideas that help promote its ideas of ethical sourcing, community involvement, and more.

To make relationships central to their content, some of the companies/ businesses that Starbucks has formed relationships with include:

  • Abyssinian Development Corporation

  • Multicultural Foodservice and Hospitality Alliance

  • National Recycling Coalition

  • American Red Cross

  • Association of Post Consumer Plastic Recyclers

  • Business for Social Community

  • Calvert Foundation

  • Food Service Packaging Institute

These partnerships made Starbucks bigger than coffee. As we have learned in the last decade, people don’t continue to buy from you because of your product but also what you represent. Starbucks positioned itself as a forward-thinking coffee shop that strives for a better world. When customers come in, they are invited to the journey and participate when they purchase a coffee.

This is also great for employees. No one wants to work to survive. When they have a higher purpose, like doing good every cup of coffee they serve, they have a reason to wake up in the morning and work their best. When employees are happy, so are the customers.

Starbucks has used these partnerships and commitments to make a difference and add purpose to its brand. Today, brands can do the same. They can evaluate the core values of the company, its employees, and customers, to find the right non-profits and partners to support. To learn more, check out this resource on Starbucks Co-branding and why its an innovative success formula. 

Starbucks’ Relationship with Customers

Starbucks remains popular and known because of the various facilities they provide to customers. Not only do you get free Wi-Fi and the chance to hang out in comfy chairs all day, but they provide you with cups bearing your name and never forget your order.

Starbucks provides cards that are part of the Starbucks Rewards Loyalty Program. These cards seem to have caught on well with customers. They have become a marketing success story, with more than eight million U.S. participants.

Loyalty programs are powerful because they provide incentives for each purchase, encouraging customers to return. Loyal customers also feel appreciate when they win awards. The program is also great for data per customer so that brands can evaluate behaviors and future products.

Starbucks is also experimenting with walk-up kiosks and drive-throughs made from reclaimed steel containers to see if this goes well with customers. Starbucks is not just a business selling fresh cappuccino; it offers people an experience, a ‘third place’ between home and work where you can unwind and relax. Starbucks has stolen the hearts of their customers with their commitment to forging good relationships and this seems to have paid off for them.

In your own customer experience for your brand, ask yourself what you want others to feel. People want to feel like they matter and that they are valued. By offering a great product, connecting with customers, and building long-term relationships with everyone, your brand can grow. To learn more about sustainability marketing, check out this resource on Nike sustainability marketing and how it helped grow their business.  

The story of Starbucks has inspired other businesses, both big and small, to form lasting relationships with all stakeholders. Identify who those people are and develop a strategy to add value to all of them. Through creative solutions, you can develop your relationship strategy to help you grow fast, keep authentic and genuine connections with partners and customers alike, and generate positive PR and word of mouth.

Editorial Credit: Boyloso /

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