Tweet-a-coffee: A New Millennial Marketing Strategy

Posted by: Jeff Fromm

Grabbing a cup of coffee can mean something different to everyone.  For many, it’s the only proper way to start the day.  For others, it’s a time to sit down, catch up or discuss business.  For me, a hot cup of Joe always reminds me of evenings at the table with my mother after an equally hectic day of too much to do and not enough time.

The sad truth is, after moving away from home, it’s been months since I was able to treat my mom to her favorite cup of coffee.  Even though we’re miles apart, on Tuesday—thanks to Starbucks, with the help of Twitter—I got the opportunity to let her know I was thinking about her.

Those folks over at Starbucks rolled out a beta program called Tweet-a-coffee this week allowing users to send a $5 virtual gift card to someone special using social media.  First, you sync your Starbucks app to your Twitter account linking your credit card in the process.  Next, you tweet “@tweetacoffee” with the twitter handle of the recipient, and that person receives the gift. The lucky recipient can redeem it directly from his/her phone at participating Starbucks.Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 12.59.13 PM

Users are tweeting coffees to close friends, distant relatives, colleagues and coworkers.  You name it!  Some are even tweeting at strangers with a goal of making a connection. This personal (yet digital) gesture strikes a true chord with millennials. Let’s take a look at why this group is crazy about the idea.

1)   Starbucks encourages active participation.

We know that millennials demand to participate with their favorite brands.  When we break down exactly what participation means, we often refer to co-creation: of the product/service, the marketing and the consumer experience.  Starbuck hits a home run allowing millennials to knock out all three simultaneously.  By tweeting the gift, users are sending something personal through the brand’s message, all the while taking part in the brand’s experience.

2)   Millennials love social media.

Brands and marketers that win with millennials understand the power of social engagement.  It wasn’t long ago that we would have encouraged a two-way dialogue on social channels where brands talk with their customers through social channels.  Starbucks found a way to take this idea one step further by allowing fans to communicate with each other directly through the brand.   While Starbucks might not be doing the talking, they remain an intrinsic part of the conversation.  Brilliant!

3)   Did I mention shareworthy?

You’ll often hear me talk about peer affirmation as a huge theme we see with millennials.  This generation is constantly looking for approval among their peer network and sharing everyday experiences on a regular basis in order to achieve that.  While buying someone a cup of coffee seems like it’s limited to the two people involved, Starbucks’ Tweet-a-coffee program allows users to share this gesture with an entire network.

4)   Useful is the new “cool” with Millennials.

E-gifting is nothing new, so why is Starbucks’ Tweet-a-coffee so cool?  Millennials will tell you that innovative technology just for the sake of using something new is unnecessary.  This group is only interested in using a new technology that adds value to their everyday lives.  This idea of “useful” means that millennials seek out technology that allows them to do something more efficiently than before.  I often refer to millennials as the ultimate multi-taskers as we watch this generation consistently doing two (or perhaps three or four) things at once.  Allowing this group the convenient opportunity to buy someone a cup of coffee from miles away in a second is incredibly “useful” and absolutely “cool.”

5)   Millennials seek authentic connections.

Sure, some see millennials as addicted to their smartphones/tablets, making them less inclined to make authentic connections.  What we have to understand about this group is that they are the most digitally and socially savvy group of consumers we’ve ever seen.  It’s not that they don’t appreciate authentic connections, it’s that they’ve grown up in the fast-paced age of technology where the convenience of tweeting and texting often trump a handshake.  That said, we know that millennials are finding their own ways to make up for these cold conversations.  Tapping into that idea, Starbucks’ Tweet-a-coffee program helps bridge the gap from digital connections to authentic connections.  And the gesture couldn’t be more genuine.

Author: Greg Vodicka, Assistant Account Manager at Barkley 

Photo Credit: Twitter 

About Jeff Fromm

Although not a Millennial as defined by his age, Jeff Fromm is the Millennial Marketing Guy. Jeff is President of FutureCast, a marketing consultancy that specializes in Millennial trends, and is a contributing writer at...See Jeff's full bio.