The Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino & the Concept of Stunt Food Case Analysis

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Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino and the Concept of Stunt Food . This is an individual assignment and the approximate word limit is 900 words. You can format the case study analysis like an essay (the specific format is flexible) and weave in the case study questions as well as appropriate course materials/themes, and your thoughts on the topic. Upload file below for more details.++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Explanation & Answer length: 900 words.

The Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino and the Concept of Stunt Food Case Author: Ernest Baskin & Jessica V. Olszyk Online Pub Date: January 02, 2018 | Original Pub. Date: 2018 Subject: Advertising & Promotion, Consumer Marketing, Marketing Decision Making Level: Basic | Type: Indirect case | Length: 2333 words Copyright: © Ernest Baskin and Jessica V. Olszyk 2018 Organization: Starbucks | Organization size: Large Region: United States of America | State: Industry: Food and beverage service activities Originally Published in: Publisher: SAGE Publications: SAGE Business Cases Originals DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781526438881 | Online ISBN: 9781526438881 SAGE © Ernest Baskin and Jessica V. Olszyk 2018 SAGE Business Cases © Ernest Baskin and Jessica V. Olszyk 2018 This case was prepared for inclusion in SAGE Business Cases primarily as a basis for classroom discussion or self-study, and is not meant to illustrate either effective or ineffective management styles. Nothing herein shall be deemed to be an endorsement of any kind.

This case is for scholarly, educational, or personal use only within your university, and cannot be forwarded outside the university or used for other commercial purposes. 2018 SAGE Publications Ltd. All Rights Reserved. This content may only be distributed for use within CSU Dominguez Hills. http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781526438881 Page 2 of 7 The Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino and the Concept of Stunt Food SAGE © Ernest Baskin and Jessica V. Olszyk 2018 SAGE Business Cases Abstract Starbucks sold the Unicorn Frappuccino for just five days in April of 2017. This case describes how Starbucks harnessed the power of stunt food and the unicorn trend in creating the Unicorn Frappuccino. How did Starbucks use its understanding of food as social currency to capitalize on a trend where others had failed? Was the Unicorn Frappuccino a good idea despite the ensuing backlash?

Case Learning Outcomes After reading this case, students should be able to: Identify and articulate what stunt food is Understand why and how Starbucks used stunt food Explain the good and bad outcomes of the Unicorn Frappuccino. Introduction From April 19th, 2017 to April 23rd, 2017, Starbucks in the United States, Canada, and Mexico sold the Unicorn Frappuccino. A fruity blended drink under the blended Frappuccino line, the Unicorn Frappuccino was brightly colored with a purple, mango flavored ice crème base, blue drizzle, and a topping of sweet pink and sour blue powders. The drink changed color and flavor when swirled, from a sweet purple to a sour pink. Starbuck’s other, standard Frappuccinos included strawberry, green tea, mocha, java chip, double chocolate, cinnamon dolce, and coffee flavored blended iced drinks, usually topped with whipped cream and flavored syrup.

To introduce the Unicorn Frappuccino, Starbucks implemented in-store promotions as well as bus and sign advertising. In addition, Starbucks made the following official press release on April 18th 2017: “The elusive unicorn from medieval legend has been making a comeback. Once only found in enchanted forests, unicorns have been popping up in social media with shimmering unicorn-themed food and drinks. Now Starbucks is taking the trend to a new level with its first Unicorn Frappuccino® blended beverage, available starting Wednesday, April 19, through Sunday, April 23, while supplies last. The Unicorn Frappuccino blended crème is made with a sweet dusting of pink powder, blended into a crème Frappuccino with mango syrup and layered with a pleasantly sour blue drizzle. It is finished with vanilla whipped cream and a sprinkle of sweet pink and sour blue powder topping. Like its mythical namesake, the Unicorn Frappuccino blended crème comes with a bit of magic, starting as a purple beverage with swirls of blue and a first taste that is sweet and fruity.

But give it a stir and its color changes to pink, and the flavor evolves to tangy and tart. The more swirl, the more the beverage’s color and flavors Page 3 of 7 The Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino and the Concept of Stunt Food SAGE © Ernest Baskin and Jessica V. Olszyk 2018 SAGE Business Cases transform. This limited-time offering is as fleeting as a rainbow, available April 19-23, while supplies last in participating Starbucks® stores in the United States, Canada and Mexico.” (Starbucks, 2017) The following links show examples of the various promotions that Starbucks used to advertise this new drink, in their stores and on social media: https://goo.gl/borfft https://goo.gl/2yx3QJ https://goo.gl/6RvWaf These promotions started on April 18th, the day before the product was released, to spread the word. It worked: many popular sites, including Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Tastemade, and the Food Network, published articles hyping the Unicorn Frappuccino; a few of them can be seen here: https://goo.gl/FWw4ss https://goo.gl/wJh11q Stunt Food Stunt food is food that combines strange ingredients or features unusual tastes and is usually only around for a limited amount of time (Katayama, 2017).

The Unicorn Frappuccino is a perfect example of a stunt food. Its bright colors, trendy name, and associated hype made it immensely popular and a talking point both before and after release. The Unicorn Frappuccino stood out on the Starbucks menu since it was drastically different from Starbucks’ normal offerings. Starbucks rose to popularity in part because of its Italian coffeehouse inspired menu, including espressos, mochas, and lattes. The Frappuccino line generally features common coffee flavor pairings: caramel; mocha; java; etc. Generally, the Frappuccinos are regarded as indulgent options. However, they were given an extra dose of novelty and fun with the release of the Unicorn Frappuccino, which was very different from their other Frappuccinos. Some are colorful, but derive their color from natural sources such as strawberry, acai, and berry.

Thus, the Unicorn Frappuccino looked unique and whimsical in comparison to other Starbucks drinks. Starbucks was not the first to introduce stunt food as part of its menu offerings. In 2010 for a limited time Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) introduced the KFC Double Down, a sandwich that substituted chicken cutlets for bread. The KFC Double Down became so popular in response to the media frenzy surrounding its introduction that its run was extended. Other examples include the Pepsi Fire, a cinnamon flavored Pepsi that was available only in June 2017, and Walmart’s Crotilla, a tortilla/croissant combination that can be sliced into sandwiches (Katayama, 2017). Stunt food can garner its own publicity – both good and bad – through its ridiculousness or craziness. The KFC Double Down was mocked on many late-night programs, and the Unicorn Frappuccino was no different.

Late night comedian Stephen Colbert “hate tasted” it on his show and referred to its taste as “French-kissing Tinkerbell” (Colbert, 2017). Food as Social Currency Page 4 of 7 The Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino and the Concept of Stunt Food SAGE © Ernest Baskin and Jessica V. Olszyk 2018 SAGE Business Cases Millennials are one of the demographics most sought-after by advertisers today. Social media is one of the primary ways to reach them. According to the American Press Institute (American Press Institute, 2015), 74% of millennials get their news from an online source. To many millennials, food is considered a social currency (Roy, 2017) and posting photogenic food is considered trendy.

Social currency is the notion that as we share online, we expose parts of ourselves that eventually become who we are online and in specific communities (Barnikel, 2012). In order to become part of these identities, many companies engage in efforts to make their food look beautiful or to post pictures of novel and entertaining food. Chili’s recently announced that it would increase spending to improve how its food looked in pictures, with egg wash on burgers and metal fry holders (Roy, 2017). This proves that companies understand the importance of wanting their product to be photogenic for added exposure on social media. Stunt food is engaging because of its novelty, but Starbucks combined novelty with beauty in the Unicorn Frappuccino. More than 150,000 posts were tagged with the hashtag #Unicorn Frappuccino on Instagram alone (Roy, 2017). In choosing to make the drink bright and colorful, Starbucks was able to gain publicity from consumers as well as published sources.

Its childlike nature allowed Starbucks to openly court “tweens”, children between the ages of 11 and 13, a desirable demographic that is especially active on social media and whose tastes for coffee may not be fully developed. It is important to note that stunt food will naturally incite outcry or even disgust due to its shocking design. What is critical to consider is whether the product sold, how much it sold, and whether the product did damage to the image of the parent brand. Making a shocking product that is unique but not so outlandish that it causes a negative reaction to the brand requires a delicate balance. Starbucks was able to navigate this fine line with a unique product that did not isolate the brand entirely. The limited time offer was preferable to a permanent addition, since the Unicorn Frappuccino was not entirely consistent with Starbucks’ normal menu. Trend Identification and Implementation Many companies have tried to tap into trends and memes on social media only to drown in the fast-moving currents of online culture. For instance, Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner advertisement tried to tap into the spirit of protest but ultimately failed.

Pepsi mistook a complex social issue as a trend to be capitalized upon, only to suffer immense backlash for their insensitivity. In contrast, Starbucks was able to tap into a major food trend and implement its version correctly. Unicorn food is a trend bred online that is characterized by sweet cakes, cookies, cocktails, and more with brightly colored dyes – usually rainbow – sometimes accompanied by colorful sprinkles of candy, marshmallows, fruit, etc. It is believed to have been started by health blogger Adeline Waugh, who posted toasted bread with colorful cream cheese and sprinkles in 2016 and dubbed it unicorn toast (https://goo.gl/PdVWbi). The unicorn food trend is popular with food bloggers who promote it through numerous visually oriented platforms: Pinterest; Snapchat; Instagram; and Tumblr. Starbucks proved they could move quickly and efficiently to capitalize on a trend and make a mass-produced, photogenic drink.

Food trends are especially lucrative because they can be capitalized on without necessarily infringing on another company’s trademark. Starbucks had enough trust in their usual consumer base that they felt they could take a risk with the Unicorn Frappuccino. Trust is an incredibly important base in the word of mouth chain, especially with social media. Trust in a business is integral in the development and spread of word of mouth (Hajili, Lin, Featherman, & Wang, 2014, p 13). Starbucks made a smart move in utilizing their already strong and loyal consumer base and cultivating social commerce within numerous social media platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram as millions of people posted their Unicorn Frappuccinos. Page 5 of 7 The Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino and the Concept of Stunt Food SAGE © Ernest Baskin and Jessica V. Olszyk 2018 SAGE Business Cases Results The Unicorn Frappuccino seemed to divide people, with some enjoying its novelty and others calling it a disgusting mound of sugar.

In a way, they were both right. Stunt food is, by design, meant to elicit attention and to be somewhat ridiculous. Starbucks dealt with their fair share of attention, good and bad. Singer Katy Perry tried the Unicorn Frappuccino and spit it out in disgust on an Instagram story that was viewable by her 66 million followers. A barista in Colorado, Braden Burson, posted a video of himself begging consumers not to buy the drink, which later went viral (https://goo.gl/YaF58J). Burson stated that the blue powder got into his hair and his nose and complained about how complex the drink was to make. Other baristas took to forums such as Reddit and Twitter with the same complaints, as well as bemoaning the sheer volume of people ordering it. The different colors had to be blended separately, and the purple syrup needed to be drizzled into the cup before the blended drink could be added (Judkis, 2017). A day after Burson posted the video, Starbucks stated that they were reaching out to him “to talk about his experience and how to make it better” (Judkis, 2017).

This specific tactic of responding quickly with clear advance training shows how companies have adapted in their responses to bad press. This tactic is explained by Leslie Gaines-Ross, “Most companies are slow moving and consensus driven. While they look for a convenient time to get together and come up with a defense that everyone agrees on, damage from the attack continues to spread” (Gaines-Ross, 2010, p. 1). Starbucks was polished and quick in their response. It is very clear Starbucks knew they could not take the offensive in this situation. Another challenge was potential trademark infringement. The End Brooklyn (The End), a café in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is currently suing Starbucks for trademark infringement. In December of 2016, a full 5 months before Starbucks rolled out the Unicorn Frappuccino, The End released their popular Unicorn Latte (https://goo.gl/9Qpr1i), and applied on January 20th, 2017 to trademark the name.

The case is still pending and Starbucks issued a statement that the claims were without merit, but The End claims it could end up as a $10million dollars settlement (Marsh, 2017). Still, Starbucks stock traded at a 52-weeks high shortly after releasing the Unicorn Frappuccino (Nathan, 2017). Following the introduction of the Unicorn Frappuccino, which could be considered the apex of the unicorn food trend, a “backlash” trend emerged: goth food. Originally created by Little Damage, an ice cream shop in Los Angeles, goth ice cream emerged as the antithesis of unicorn food. Cosmopolitan, Tastemade, and the Food Network published articles on goth food as a sort of palate cleanser against the onslaught of unicorn food (https://goo.gl/XSLQZm).

Discussion Questions 1. Did Starbucks implement the Unicorn Frappuccino correctly? Explain your answer. 2. Were the negative outcomes worth the launching of the Unicorn Frappuccino? Explain your answer3. How could Starbucks have mitigated employee backlash? References American Press Institute. (2015, March 16). How Millennials Get News: Inside the Habits of Page 6 of 7 The Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino and the Concept of Stunt Food SAGE © Ernest Baskin and Jessica V. Olszyk 2018 SAGE Business Cases America’s First Digital Generation. American Press Institute. Retrieved June 24, 2017 from https://www.americanpressinstitute.org/publications/reports/survey-research/millennials-news/ Barnikel, M. (2012, April 15). How Social Currency Is Driving Identity, Trust and N e w I n d u s t r i e s.

TechCrunch. R e t r i e v e d J u l y 1 8 , 2 0 1 7 f r o m https://techcrunch.com/2012/04/15/how-social-currency-is-driving-identity-trust-and-newindustries/. Colbert, S. (2017, April 20). Stephen Colbert Hate Tastes the Unicorn Frappuccino. YouTube. Retrieved June 29, 2017 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBBDlgwm8dg Gaines-Ross, L. (2010). Reputation warfare. Harvard Business Review, 88(12), 70–76. Hajli, N., Lin, X., Featherman, M., & Wang, Y. (2014). Social word of mouth: How trust develops in the market. International Journal of Market Research, 56(5), 673–689. Judkis, M. (2017, April 20). ‘Please don’t get it’: Starbucks baristas are flipping out over the Unicorn Frappuccino. T h e W a s h i n g t o n P o s t. R e t r i e v e d J u n e 2 0 , 2 0 1 7 f r o m https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/food/wp/2017/04/20/please-dont-get-it-starbucksbarista-flips-out-over-unicorn-frappuccino/?utm_term=.44eacc53d217 Katayama, F. (2017, May 26).

Slow times fuel ‘stunt foods. Reuters. Retrieved June 20 2017 from Marsh, J. (2017, May 5) Brooklyn cafe claims Starbucks stole their ‘unicorn’ drink. New York Post. Retrieved June 20, 2017 from http://nypost.com/2017/05/04/brooklyn-cafe-claimsstarbucks-stole-their-unicorn-drink/ Nathan, R. (2017, May 31). Why Starbucks Is Trading near Its 52-Week High. Market Realist. Retrieved June 20, 2017 from http://marketrealist.com/2017/05/why-starbucks-is-trading-nearits-52-week-high/ Roy, J. (2017, April 28). Unicorn Frappuccinos are just the latest food designed with I n s t a g r a m i n m i n d. L o s A n g e l e s T i m e s. R e t r i e v e d J u n e 2 4 , 2 0 1 7 f r o m http://www.latimes.com/food/dailydish/la-dd-unicorn-frappuccino-instagram-food-trends20170427-htmlstory.html Starbucks. (2017, April 18). People are freaking out over Starbucks Unicorn Frappucino. Starbucks. Retrieved June 24, 2017 from https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/nationnow/2017/04/18/people-freaking-out-over-starbucks-unicorn-frappuccino/100592430/ http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781526438881 Page 7 of 7 The Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino and the Concept of Stunt Food.

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