Remember how exciting Starbucks was when it first burst on the scene? Starbucks was all about community, too (and still is, to be sure). Folks went there not just to buy coffee, but also to meet others and feel like they were part of something. The most amazing thing about it was that often the conversation centered on the coffee itself — and Starbucks even invented a special language for ordering drinks that is unique to its customers.
So powerful was this approach that at first Starbucks did not need to advertise or run promotions. That’s changed as the novelty of the Starbucks experience has worn off, however, and these days Starbucks is trying to keep its sense of community alive with some very specific promotional concepts. One of those promotional ideas centers on Starbucks’ creation of Wi-Fi hotspots in more than half of its 4,100 U.S. locations. In the most general sense, the idea is to encourage customers to “come in, sit down and log on,” as reported recently in The New York Times. That, in itself, extends the Starbucksian commitment to community-building. But the brand is taking things a step further, by offering exclusive “hotspot” content, available only to its customers, such as blues documentaries, rock star interviews and holiday stories produced in partnership with National Public Radio. Some observers say the promotion is a kind of hi-tech version of the toys and other premiums traditionally offered in quick serve establishments.
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