CAN GIMMICKS LIKE UNICORN FRAPPUCCINOS KEEP CONSUMERS COMING BACK TO COMMERCIAL COFFEE ESTABLISHMENTS? THE ANSWER IS A RESOUNDING YES
If there is one market that food and beverage establishments have been trying to keep up with, it’s the millennials. In past F& B Report issues, a number of contributing writers have tackled millennial food habits and why restaurants are constantly adapting to what these consumers want. People have called them indecisive, picky, and unable to pay attention, but among all their characteristics and stereotypes, it is their inclination for good design and aesthetics that F& B businesses are trying to tap.
Commercial coffee operators are no stranger to these marketing schemes. What good can an Instagram- friendly drink do? Plenty, actually. The best case in point had actually occurred in the middle of this year, thanks to commercial coffee giant Starbucks. A few months ago, the establishment launched the controversial Unicorn Frappuccino, a blue and pink- colored fruity drink that broke both the Internet and café sales, quickly selling out across Starbucks branches in the United States. The frappuccino itself drew mixed reviews online, but that didn’t stop netizens from posting photos of it on their social media accounts and frantically attempting to get a taste of the highly talked- about drink.
Are commercial coffee establishments here in the Philippines playing the same game? Starbucks and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Philippines say yes. In an era when third wave coffee shops are popping up left and right, both Starbucks and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf have been consistently brewing new ideas to catch young diners’ attention— hook, line, and sinker.
On one hand, Starbucks is recognized for their innovative seasonal drinks catering to various trends all over the globe— which, of course, have to look gorgeous for the good old ’ gram. Starbucks Japan created buzz last spring when they put out their Sakura Blossom beverage, a pink drink made with traditional Japanese ingredients, topped with bright pink rice pops, and served in a special Sakura Blossom cup. As of writing, Starbucks Philippines is currently endorsing its Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew, a drink with an intoxicating swirl of light cream and dark coffee fit for capturing with the Boomerang app. Starbucks has also incorporated exotic or social media- trending ingredients in beverages, like salted caramel, açaí berry, Tahitian vanilla, and Valencia orange.
Social media becomes a weapon and viral content never fails to reel a market in. A few years ago, a secret Starbucks menu consisting of off- menu items ( a Harry Potter Butterbeer- flavored drink among them) trended online, prompting customers to ask café baristas to make these special beverages for them.
The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, on the other hand, claims that its signature drinks have always been the ice blended beverages. Customers in the Philippines are naturally drawn to cold and distinctly flavored sweet drinks. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf has also been using social media and aesthetics as a means to interact and engage with the millennial market. Recently launching Mexican Hot Chocolate, they created an online contest for customers who could draw the best Mexican- inspired customized art on their blank coffee cups. Participants are asked to tag their official account as they post their own creations on Instagram. Notice that branches of the establishment have word art on their walls, best for taking pictures on social media.
“We treat our social media platforms as a key resource for customer
“We treat our social media platforms as a key resource for customer insight and communitybuilding. We use them to initiate conversations
with our growing market, listen to what they say about
our brand, and fine-tune our marketing
initiatives around it,” says Nina Gregorius.
insight and community- building. We use them to initiate conversations with our growing market, listen to what they say about our brand, and fine- tune our marketing initiatives around it. Its ability to reach potential and untapped consumers is incomparable, and we make sure that our content strategy involves engaging the customer and showing that they are the most important part of our brand- building,” says Nina Gregorius of The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf ’s public relations arm.
Commercial as both establishments are, they are also concerned with sustainability, single origins, and projects with their coffee growers and farmers. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf ’s Caring Cup initiatives stem from their direct relationship with the farmers who meticulously cultivate the beans and tea leaves they source. Starbucks has also built Farmer Support Centers that help sustain their communities.
In the end, innovation is always a good way to elevate the coffee experience for the customers of these establishments. Different or trending drinks are bound to make it online, and word of mouth on social media can spread like wildfire. Starbucks and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf aren’t the only ones in it. Nespresso will soon join the game as it opens its very first café in Rockwell this year, so its market can gain similar on- site experience as well. Gregorius says, “Innovation is at the heart of what we do and we like to keep our customers on their toes. Our efforts are always concentrated at making sure that there is always something new that will keep them coming back– without giving away too much, of course.”
(This page, top) Before busy hours at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf's SM Jazz branch; A customer takes an Instagram photo of their drink at Starbucks (Opposite page, clockwise from upper left) Starbucks’ new nitro cold brew incorporates nitrogen into their coffee; The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf's best-selling ice blended white chocolate dream; A spacious Starbucks Reserve branch along Jupiter Street