#7 Starbucks VIA Instant Coffee
Launched : February 2009
Overview : Starbucks new many instant coffees use lower-quality coffee beans and are not natural. VIA™ Ready Brew is 100% natural roasted coffee, made without preservatives. As with all Starbucks® coffee, Starbucks VIA™ Ready Brew is made with the highest quality coffee beans sourced from the top 3 percent of the world's coffee supply. In developing Starbucks VIA™ Ready Brew, Starbucks developed a proprietary, patent-pending technology to preserve the coffee's taste, quality and freshness.
How did they do it?
It was not an overnight success story: Starbucks spent 20 years developing VIA and they decided to support the product with the single-largest marketing effort in the company's history. It was one of the biggest product launches for the brand since it's inception. The VIA line is capitalizing on the trend of the "time starved consumer" that did not want to sacrifice taste for convenience.
Sample, Sample Sample
Sampling is a time proven method for facilitating consumer trial. Starbucks having ultimate control in their own stores orchestrated sampling customers with free VIA coffee. To control their sampling effort they waited to introduce the product in grocery stores until sometime in 2010. Even though they were not in retail groceries initially, they used the brand presence of their regular line of coffee and dispatched baristas to retailers such as Safeway and Target stores to give out VIA samples to shoppers.
The number of samples requested just in the month of February exceeded 2.5 million! Any doubt sampling works? By focusing their efforts in their own stores they were able to differentiate Starbucks VIA from other instant coffee brands. A really bold and smart move was sampling VIA side by side with consumers against regular Starbucks coffee: once again creating a clear differentiation that this was as they say " not instant coffee, but coffee in an instant". Brilliant!
Social Media Focus
You just can't get away from the fact that social media in food is powerful and Starbucks being marketing geniuses know this. They used Twitter to spread word about Taste Challenge Event and created Targeted VIA ads on Facebook.
Social Media gave them viral publicity and very little cost to the company and Starbucks claims that people are still talking about VIA well after the product launch. They promoted their VIA Taste Challenge through Facebook driving people into their stores comparing VIA against regular Starbucks coffee. The Facebook promotion offered a free coffee in-store for trying.
Keys sales figures
Let's face it, business is about sales and the bottom line. They sold an impressive $100 million in global sales in 10 months. Additionally they captured about 30 percent of the $330 million premium single serve (pod) category.