Written by Emily Pearson
The global chain, Starbucks, recently released a limited-time drink known as “The Unicorn Frappuccino” with availability limited from only April 19 to April 23 in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. This twelve ounce, 280 calorie drink was said to be a sweet, pink beverage at first sip, but strangely followed with a sour aftertaste to create a sweet-and-sour explosion of flavor that is far from anything that Starbucks has ever done before. Many chains have utilized the tactic of “limited time offer” when it comes to bringing people into their stores to see what all the fuss is about, but did Starbucks attempt at mimicking this actually pay off?
Similar to Jamba Juice’s “secret menu,” chains have discovered that having a limited availability or uncommon drink is what keeps customers intrigued and wanting to try what’s new. Funny that humans continue to have this innate sense to try what everyone else is doing. But how does social media play into this? After interviewing my 13-year-old sister I got my answer. Bottom line is: people have to know for themselves. As soon as word spread via social media about the limited-addition drink, people everywhere had to try for themselves this new and absurd phenomenon. What can be found comical though, and the reason Starbucks was able to get such a huge increase in sales for their third-quarter earnings this year, is the fact that even though “the drink ended up tasting kind of horrible,” people had to find out for themselves. Good or bad, people where still willing to pay almost five dollars towards the pink drink because everyone else around them was doing it. When talking to my sister about how she initially found out about the drink, her reply was that she first heard about it via Snapchat stories. She stated, “The day the drink came out my entire feed of Snapchat stories was pictures of people getting the drink…usually followed by a response to the taste of it, which for the majority were negative.” Alongside snapchat trends, advertisements for the drink were also promoted via Facebook and Instagram for a limited time.
CEO Kevin Johnson told Cosmopolitan on Saturday, April 29, to expect more limited addition drinks in the months to come. He stated, “We will bring at least one new entirely new drink into Happy Hour this year that is going to be as good as the Unicorn or better.” As Cosmopolitan responded, “What will it be?! Sunshine’s piss?! Rainbow vomit!? Narwahl’s butt sweat?! Only time (and the empty contents of my wallet! Help! I’m a sucker!) will tell.”
While Starbucks’ tactic was a great idea, and probably would be considered a social media win in successfully grabbing people’s attention, improving the (somewhat failed) taste would up the amount of customers even more. Starbuck’s has done other drinks that are either seasonal or limited addition, but I think what won them their sales was the outrageous color and idea behind the taste of The Unicorn Drink. Not only does the mix of numerous bright colors draw in people’s attention as they are mindlessly scrolling through social media, but the uncertainty of not knowing exactly what it’s going to taste like leaves people’s minds curious and their wallets eager to reach the nearest Starbucks store. In conclusion, social media can be an extremely useful tactic in getting word out about a new product. Maybe next time though, Starbucks, give us a drink that we actually want to finish 12 ounces of?