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Top Marketing Strategies Differentiating Starbucks, Coca-Cola & Apple

by Jack Boutchard & Cascade Team, on Jun 3, 2021 1:12:57 PM

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Have you ever wondered why there's so much buzz around brands like Coca-Cola, Apple, and Starbucks? Have you asked yourself what makes them so special when many other brands are churning out almost the same products? Well, if you have, then you're well on your way to discovering the secret of their success.

Over the years, these companies have been able to maintain top sales of their goods and services. They’ve established themselves as household names and overshadowed the competition. And, it won’t be wrong to say that these companies are in a league of their own.

This kind of success doesn’t just happen spontaneously. They all achieved success due to their dynamic marketing strategies. And this article is about discovering those strategies that have set them apart from their competition.

Marketing Strategy and its Key Elements

A marketing strategy is a blueprint that a company follows to build a solid customer base for its products and services. And when it comes to marketing strategies, some general elements have withstood the test of time.

Edmund Jerome McCarthy, an American marketing professor, and author proposed the concept of 4 ps in his 1960 book titled Basic Marketing. These 4 ps are fundamental in designing any marketing strategy.

● Product: This is the first element of a good marketing strategy. And it's the first because, at the end of the day, the sales of your product depend primarily on the value it offers. Your product must have a strong unique value proposition that competitors find hard to keep up with. Consequently, positioning your brand at the top of the market.

● Price: Another thing to consider is the price of your products and services. There is a reason why $9.99 is more popular than $10. When it comes to fixing a price, it tends to get technical. Fixing a price too low can cause people to think your services or product isn't top-notch. And setting your product's price too high might make it seem like you are ripping off your customers. So, price-fixing is all about finding a balance and understanding the market trends.

● Place: Location always matters. Regardless of the quality and price of your product, selling to the wrong crowd will lead to fewer sales. For every product, there is a target audience. As a brand, you need to determine to whom you'll be selling your goods and services. Doing this is synonymous with digging in the right spot to hit a goldmine.

● Promotion: For your brand to achieve massive success, it is necessary to find a unique way of creating awareness for your products. Your brand might be one of the best, but if nobody knows about it, your brand will fail to reach its full potential.

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Starbucks' Transforming Marketing Strategy

Starbucks has grown and established its roots in various countries. As of 2020, over 32,000 stores were sprawled across several countries. In 2020 Starbucks was estimated to have a net value of around US $29 billion and has a 39.8% share of the US coffee market. 

Starbucks store locations world map
Source

Amidst the competition, Starbucks has continued to remain one of the top sellers of coffee. This is owed in part to its unique marketing strategy. This marketing strategy has consequently created a customer base ready to queue just to get their coffees.

Here is a list of the marketing strategies Starbucks had used to outshine competitors.

#1. Market Research Based Strategic Pivot

Starbucks didn't start its operations as a coffee shop, it started as a retail shop for selling roasted beans. It was after Howard Schutz took over the Starbucks company that it began selling beverages.

Howard decided to pivot the business after he traveled to Italy. There he witnessed the way coffee was sold and came back to the US to implement the idea. With proper planning and strategy, he was able to successfully naturalize the concept he saw in Italy in the US. This idea has consequently led to the popularity of Starbucks not only in the US but around the world.

#2. Awareness

Starbucks does not joke around when it comes to creating awareness for its beverages. They understand the importance of advertisements, and they exploit that area to drive demand for their products. They utilize this especially with their seasonal drinks, for example, their pumpkin spiced latte.

They have a solid social media presence. Furthermore, their social media adverts are personified to speak directly to customers. Also, Starbucks doesn't take for granted the aspect of engaging customers on social media.

Starbucks also creates awareness through its ‘secret menu’ which gains traction on social media, particularly with the younger demographic showing off the usually colorful concoction they got at Starbucks.

#2. Evolving Menu

Instead of offering the plain old coffee, they took a step forward to mix things up. They produced several varieties of coffees and other assorted beverages. Furthermore, Starbucks included food to their menus, especially meals that are usually taken away with coffee.

The inclusion of food on Starbucks' menu has resulted in over a 20% rise in revenue. This strategy has helped to provide products that target a wider target audience. Consequently, this helps to generate higher sales.

#3. Customer Service

Starbucks has made it a priority to make sure that all its customers are treated with respect. They understand how bad customer service can negatively affect sales. So they make sure that their customer service is friendly and welcoming.

This great customer service is evident in how they make sure to write the customer's name on the coffee cup. And then they call out the name of the person across the room. Starbucks' however, is notorious for spelling names wrong on their coffee cups. Whether by design or complete accident, this is a brilliant marketing strategy as the awareness gained from social media posts and articles written on name fails, keeps Starbucks relevant in society, and puts a smile on the customer's face.

#4. Atmosphere, More Than Just a Coffee Shop

Starbucks shops are very conducive and friendly. Right from the moment you place a foot into the shop, you instantly fall in love with the arrangement. Starbucks places great emphasis on this "feeling" you get when you enter their store.

Starbucks has created an environment where customers come to work or study while ordering coffee. Furthermore, to encourage customers who come to work or study, they provide free WiFi.

This kind of environment establishes a sweet lingering experience in the mind of customers. And this draws them to Starbucks over and over again. This is a powerful strategy that has successfully set Starbucks apart from competitors.

#5. Responsibility

Starbucks places emphasis on treating employees well and building a healthy workplace culture. This is why Starbucks will pay all employees (US) at least $15/hour within the next 2 years.

Starbucks employees also have healthcare and discounted stock options for company shares. Starbucks also covers tuition for employees in an online degree program through Arizona State University. This is all done as the belief is if staff are happy they'll make customers happy also.

#6. Mobile Driven Loyalty 

The Starbucks app has a unique user acquisition and retention strategy. Customers can't directly connect a credit or debit card to the app, instead, they have to load money onto the app. This gets customers to Starbucks as they have essentially already paid for their coffee without actually receiving it. 

The app provides other features such as a gorgeous UX, trackable rewards system, GPS notification when near a Starbucks, freebies, and additional free perks. The value offered through the app boosts customer engagement and increases brand loyalty, this is illustrated through the app's popularity.

Most-Popular-Restaurant-Loyalty-AppsSource

#7. Unique logo design

Even though Starbucks' logo design has seen several changes, it has still maintained its ability to draw attention.

Starbucks logos 1971-present

This logo stands out and cannot be mistaken when people see it. The design is brightly colored, inadvertently registering itself in the memory of the consumers. This beautiful, spectacular design has played a part in driving sales for Starbucks' products.

Also buying a Starbucks beverage with the logo boldly displayed on the cup gives the consumer a sense of pride since Starbucks is attributed to the high class.

Coca-Cola's Dynamic Marketing Strategy

Coca-Cola's marketing strategies are based on the 4 Ps. Consequently, they have been able to formulate specific strategies tailored to helping them generate massive sales. As of 2020, the Coca-Cola company was valued at US $84 billion.

Worlds most popular consumer brands graphSource

These are some of the marketing strategies Coca-Cola has applied to be available in over 200 countries today.

#1. A Distinctive Differentiation

The story behind the creation of the drink Coca-Cola is an interesting one. The production process all started with a man named John Pemberton. After thorough research, he and his nephew Lewis Newman created the recipe used to produce the sweet distinctive Coca-Cola taste.

And so far, it’s been a difficult task for competitors to recreate the exact Coca-Cola taste. The original recipe for the production of Coca-Cola is locked in a vault in Atlanta.

#2. Brand & Product Image

It is easy for a product to get lost among a multitude of similar products if it doesn't have a spectacular look. Coca-Cola understood this. That’s why they invested in making sure that the packaging of Coca-Cola can be easily spotted anytime at any place.

First of all, the logo design draws the attention of consumers. This design entails the name Coca-Cola written in a Spencerian font. Over time the design has changed, but the core logo has remained the same.

In the first years of production, the name Coca-Cola was blandly written. It was John Pemberton's bookkeeper, Frank Robinson, that changed the written Coca-Cola font. And this font has remained unchanged for years. Because of the consistency of the written style, the design has inadvertently imprinted itself on the minds of people across the globe.

Coca-Cola-Logo-HistorySource

Furthermore, the bottle's design has a structure that stands out from other soda bottles. At one point, Coca-Cola was losing its market share to many other competitors. This caused the Coca-Cola company to host a competition to derive a design for its bottle. A mold shop supervisor Earl R Dean won the competition.

Earl went in search of words in the dictionary associated with coca. In his search, he stumbled on the word cocoa. Although cocoa has no relationship with Coca-Cola in terms of ingredients, the shape of the cocoa pod appealed to him. After that, he and his team started working on the idea which the Coca-Cola company later adopted.

Evolution-of-Coca-Cola-contour-bottleSource

This design ensures that Coca-Cola is not mistaken for another coke soda. Even when there was a significant conversion from glass to plastic, the shape of the bottle remained evident.

Additionally, the design of the Coca-Cola bottle gives it a premium and exclusive look that elicits a feeling of class. So far, this strategy has played a big role in helping Coca-Cola to stand out amidst competitors.

#3. High Standards, 36 Degrees High

In 1919, Coca-Cola made it a tradition to have retailers responsible for maintaining the standard of the product. The company issued that retailers should serve their Coke at 36 degrees Fahrenheit.

The company sent salespersons to deliver this message to retailers.
Although it might seem impractical today, it was still a good marketing strategy. It ensured that products are never sold to consumers at a substandard level.

#4. Price

It is a common concept for starting companies to provide their goods and services at an almost free price. Then when the masses are hooked on their products, these companies steadily increase the price. Coca-Cola applied this same tactic.

The price of Coca-Cola remained the same for 70 years (1886-1959) right from the time of production. The price was just 5 cents. This gave Coca-Cola more than enough time to spread from the U.S. to all across several countries. This strategy proved to be very powerful in pushing for the product's acceptability.

#5. Advertising- Slogans & Market Saturation

Coca-Cola has always been keen in the area of advertising. Globally, Coca-Cola spends approximately 4 billion U.S. dollars in advertising its brand and products.

In earlier days, Coca-Cola created awareness by producing completely unrelated items from beach balls to watches. Coca-Cola was one of the first companies to affix their brand to unrelated items, all in a bid to generate awareness.

Coca-Cola is relentless when it comes to the area of advertising. It is unlikely for you not to see an important global event that Coca-Cola doesn't sponsor.

Furthermore, but Coca-Cola has always used different slogans in selling their products. Examples of these slogans are "open happiness," "taste the feeling," "What you want is Coke."

These slogans became popular sayings and played a part in raising awareness for the Coca-Cola brand.

#6. Evolving Market Evolving Products

The success of Coca-Cola lies in its willingness to expand its target audience. This was what brought about the creation of Fanta and Sprite, along with the sugar-free Diet Coke and Coke zero.

This shows that the Coca-Cola company keeps trying to make sure that there is a product that caters to all areas of the market. This strategy has helped to improve the marketing of Coca-Cola's products.

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Apple's Leading Marketing Strategy

Apple is a perfect example of a company that has formulated a powerful marketing strategy. This strategy has made disciples out of their customers. They've managed to create a brand with customers who are willing to stand in line for hours just to get their hands on the latest Apple product.

This has been the trend for years. Apple has a brand value of US $352 billion with an estimated annual revenue of around US $275 billion. They’ve managed to stay ahead of the competition.

Apple brand loyalty graph
Source

These are the specific marketing strategies that Apple has applied to become a giant in the gadgets market.

#1. Product Integrations into Daily Life

Apple has tried to produce gadgets that blend well with daily activities. These gadgets become a product that you eventually rely on in running your day-to-day activities.

With an iPhone in your pocket or an Apple Watch on your wrist, you can check your calories burned, use your credit card, control your other home gadgets, and more. Apple has made it so easy in such a way that with just a single device, you can control every other thing around you. Apple has proven to be intentional about utility.

#2. Customer-Centric

Apple has created a die-hard customer base because of the priority it places on its customers. Apple is willing to listen to its customers to give them the products that meet their specific needs. These customers, in turn, bring in other customers.

In addition to this, Apple is intentional about creating a community that involves customers. For instance, Apple organizes free classes for children learning to code. They also host a program, "Today at Apple," where individuals like musicians, photographers, entrepreneurs, and the likes can come together to ideate their passion.

This is a great marketing strategy because it gives the customers a sense of belonging to the Apple community. This fosters strong followership among users.

#3. Multi-Market Approach

Apple focuses on four main B2B customers. These customers are government, education, SME, and enterprise. For the SME and enterprise segment, Apple tries to get salespersons that will cater to the specific needs of an enterprise.

For instance, the salesperson who has knowledge in medicine will be hired to sell products to those in that business enterprise.

Consequently, Apple hires individuals from all walks of life to serve as salespersons. By doing this, they can have a deeper understanding of the needs of their customers and are thus able to meet their needs.

#4. Premium Product Premium Pricing

The price of Apple products is higher in comparison to competitors. But they do not focus on trying to drive demand by selling their products at a lesser price or a discount.

Instead, they place attention on generating demand by rendering a spectacular customer experience encapsulated in their products. And this strategy of marketing has made the Apple brand that of luxury and class.

#5. Net Promoter Score

This is one of the tools Apple uses to determine their progress and also to pinpoint the aspect they can improve on. NPS is an index that measures a company's success by determining if a customer will recommend a company's products to others.

This helps to indicate the success of a product and also to ascertain a customer's brand loyalty.

If the feedback is negative, Apple tries to address the problem as soon as possible. This strategy has been beneficial in keeping the Apple brand far above competitors as they always try to keep improving on their products.

#6. Usability 

This is one of the selling points for Apple's products. The goal of Apple is to make sure that products are very easy to use. Apple is not interested in boring its users with technical terms, so it adopts the minimalist approach.

You can see the simplicity in their user interface, brand logo, support functions, and even in their advertisement. Everything appears to be fundamental, thereby emphasizing the core aspects of the product in an easy-to-understand manner.

Access Digital Marketing Template  This free template provides you the ability to create and visualize your own  business's marketing strategy. ACCESS TEMPLATE!

Topics:Cascading & Engaging People With Strategy
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