Unicorn magic: Lessons for B2B marketers from the Starbucks stunt

Unless you were living under a rock, you heard about the Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino. Every media source I used there was something about it. DJs were talking about it on the radio. My social media feed was blowing up about the Unicorn Frappuccino. What did they put it in? Was it bad for you? Many loved the color and its sweetness. I did not partake of the delicious treat, but now I am living with some regret.

Starbucks did a lot of things right launching this new “stunt food” product. They paid attention to the chatter. Unicorn-themed food and drinks were trending, as were unicorn emojis. They tapped into this retro theme and brought new customers into their stores, increased their stock price 1.8 percent in one day and sold out of the product in certain markets. Not bad for a drink that was available only for five days.

Forbes detailed the marketing tactics that launched this product. And while the Unicorn Frapp was clearly a consumer product from a B2C organization, there are a few lessons that carry over into our B2B world:

  1. Tap into social media. Leveraging social media in advance of the drink’s release built suspense and cultivated an eager customer base. Likewise, a strong social media presence can help B2B companies rally customers and potential customers around your company and its offerings. This means devoting resources to creating compelling and consistent content. Those companies that utilize these tools properly can optimize relationships within their communities to reach potential customers they never would have landed otherwise.
  2. Nurture brand evangelists. People who love your brand help spread the word. Customer loyalty can accelerate growth and create a competitive advantage in B2B as well. In order to develop strong loyalty, you’ll need to have a deep understanding of your customers. What are their challenges? What do they want? Solicit feedback through phone or in-person interviews or by utilizing short surveys after key interactions. The insights will help you gain perspective into how customers think. You can then use these learnings as part of your marketing efforts.
  3. Use national news and awareness days. Tie your marketing or social media efforts into a day that will get coverage, and capitalize on a built-in national awareness. Though not explicitly tied to National Unicorn Day, the release of the Unicorn Frappuccino came only a few days after that event had made waves on social media. Real-time marketing allows companies to act based on current and potentially trendy events. It works because you’re taking advantage of an emotional time and making yourself relevant, gaining some important public recognition while generating interest and providing a boost to your brand.

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