Consumers look for brands that deliver authentically & not just for sake of authenticity: Deepa Krishnan, Starbucks

Deepa Krishnan

Deepa Krishnan sheds light on how Starbucks cups have become a part of the larger communication canvas, what is it that helps retain consumers, and their approach towards their core TG – GenZ and millennial.

Deepa Krishnan, Director – Marketing & Digital – Tata Starbucks and a jury member of Social Samosa AgencyCon Indian Agency Awards and Summit, 2022, talks about the Starbucks marketing and advertising strategy, the brand’s post-pandemic approach, and how their iconic cup has become a part of the larger communication canvas.

Edited Excerpts:

Starbucks being a premier brand – who is your core TG in the Indian market? How are you reaching out to this TG?

Starbucks is a brand that appeals to a large cross-section of Indian consumers. We have a large customer set which is Millennial and Gen-Z. Most of them are also people who understand what coffee is. This is the reason the brand states that customer comes to Starbucks for coffee but many choose to stay back for the warmth and connection. These customers are mostly digital-first. To connect with this TG, we communicate through channels like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Along with that, the brand also uses all kinds of ATL as well as BTL which encompasses printing out a lot of attachment attributions.

As a marketer what is your objective in social media marketing? Which platform has been the most effective & why?

10-15 years ago the old media was heavily dependent on print, television, or outdoors advertising. But today, because of social media what happens is two-way communication. If we look at advertising on social media, it’s not about talking to the consumer, it’s talking with the consumer. When you communicate properly, the consumer appreciates the content, gives feedback and reacts instantly.

Starbucks’ brand mission is to inspire and nurture the human spirit, one person, one cup, and one neighbourhood at a time and this connection for us happens on Social Media. Apart from this, being humane, kind, and uplifting is also something the brand stands for and believes in.

Starbucks as a brand has always focused on fostering a community – how do you drive end consumers to join the community? How do you keep the community engaged?

A huge amount of consumers today being Gen-Z, they are very curious about what brands are doing for the community because they themselves want to give back to the community. Unlike Gen-X and boomers, millennials and Gen Z are happy to put their money behind brands that support the community.

When talking about the community, it starts with the internet community and the brand’s employees. Starbucks makes every effort to keep our partners happy and we have taken a lot of initiatives to make them happen. We as a brand believe that to ensure that your internet community is happy, our internal customers need to be satisfied as well.

Along with this, the brand also focuses on areas of the community by supporting organizations like Educate Girls and Vidya where we work with them to help young girls across to get an education. In fact, each of our stores has adopted a girl child and we support their education.

The Sabyasachi Starbucks merchandise also focused on this, where both the companies decided to donate to Educate Girls from this and impact the lives of 3000 young girls.

Also Read: Personalisation & measurability are the 2 big advantages of digital audio platforms – Shashwat Goswami

When Starbucks first entered India – what kind of marketing & advertising strategies were installed to create a footing in the industry? What worked for the brand?

For Starbucks what has worked brilliantly is constantly trying to celebrate the connection between the consumer and the baristas.

During COVID-19, to maintain this familiar connection with the consumers and re-create the Starbucks experience, from a marketing POV, the brand came up with a Barista call out campaign where we had our Baristas record voice notes with the name of the customer and their favourite beverage. Which was then forwarded to consumers on their Instagram accounts. We sent more than 2500 voice recordings. This campaign was also globally recognized and became an award-winning campaign for its call to action.

What have been some of the consumer behavioural trends seen in this space? How is the brand catering to the same?

Due to the pandemic, digital adoption has become faster by two, to three years in India. This has thus allowed us to do a couple of things focusing on delivery. In fact, our delivery contribution across today’s top line has moved from around 4% to 14-15% which means we had to invest to ensure that the customers get the fantastic Starbucks experience facility.

Apart from this change, consumers are reaching out to brands that contribute to the community. Last year we celebrated reusable cup day, where we gave free reusable cups to customers who bought a beverage in the store. What this did was told the customers how important sustainability is for us and we made it easier for them to adapt by giving them a free reusable cup with a beverage of their choice. We had one of our highest sales days ever.

Consumers are also looking for more meaning in all transactions. The brands that can deliver authentically and not just for the sake of authenticity. Lastly, it is disposing of experience. Customers are valuing experience far more than just pricing.

Starbucks has associated with celebrities & influencers time and again – what is your process to find personalities that best fit the brand? How do you measure the performance of influencer outreach campaigns?

It starts with a consumer. We are not trying to have influencers on board just for the sake of it. It starts with what the consumer wants and how best can we deliver it.

For the Sabyasachi collaboration, we wanted to serve the consumers a very beautifully Indian stylized product created by someone who had the same value system as us. Similarly, we have launched a new vegan menu in collaboration with Imagine Leads which is founded by Ritesh and Genelia Deshmukh.

We measure influencer outreach in two ways, one is the sentiment towards the brand and the second is if our customers feel this is a great collaboration. Positive scores and mentions are important metrics as far as our brand is concerned.

Starbucks cups have been a pride point for users for a long time now – how does the brand leverage this insight into a communication point?

Starbucks’ cups seem to have a strong connection with people and to leverage that, we started the campaign where for every drink bought in a store, the customer would receive a free Starbucks buck. This was because they also joined in on our initiative of sustainability and made an impact on the planet.

But beyond that, the cups are also a canvas for the brand to connect with the audience. For us, the customer is a human being with whom we want to make a deep connection and not just a random transaction that should be happening.

As a jury member of Social Samosa AgencyCon 2022, what are your expectations from the participants? What will you be looking for in the entries?

Great ideas come with a sharp understanding of consumers and strong consumer insight. So, I will be looking at consumer insight. Secondly, I will certainly be looking at innovation. Which agencies have pushed the envelope with respect to innovation. I think innovation is creative storytelling, innovation is the choice of media, etc. The third thing is how the entire campaign has been made; to see a focus on the impact of ‘feelings’. Communication is all about innovation and it’s all about getting that emotional connection.

I am looking at how the campaign or how the content makes me feel. I would definitely want to reward a risk taker because in every walk of life you need people who would push the envelope.

Any message for the participants?

Be bold, be fearless, just go out there and be bold and take risks and be authentic.

AgencyCon – Indian Agency Awards & Summit is scheduled to take place on July 27 @ Novotel, Juhu, from 5 PM onwards. Register here for passes.


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