Starbucks Begs the Question: Do Blondes Really Have More Fun?

Written by: Lauren Mello

On January 9th, Starbucks made a bold move and introduced a new roast for espresso. In their 43-year history, they have introduced hundreds of new drinks and flavors seasonally, but have never released a second roast of espresso. In order to support the product launch, Starbucks has invested heavily in an advertising strategy unlike any other. The launch has taken over stores around the country, leaving most of us seeing yellow.

From an advertising standpoint, Starbucks has done just about everything to get the word out about their new espresso. The Blonde Roast signature yellow has taken over their website, social channels, and in-store marketing for over 8,000 locations across the US. If you live in any major metropolitan city, you’ve probably seen at least 5 yellow coffee sleeves on your daily commute. If you haven’t seen the cups, you’ve surely seen an ad, as the campaign includes Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Digital Banner Ads, Website Takeovers, and a TV spot. All of this press has to make you wonder; Is there a demand for lighter espresso amongst Starbucks customers?

Starbucks released Blonde Roast in Canada a year prior to the US launch. The new espresso was a hit north of the border, and it was no surprise to brand loyalists that Blonde Roast Espresso would find it’s way onto the US menu in 2018. However, the launch on the 9th made it glaringly obvious that most Starbucks customers have no idea what Blonde Roast Espresso is. Customers took to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit with questions about what exactly light roast espresso is, and what makes it different than Starbucks Signature Espresso.

Some worried that blonde implied the roast was decaf. Some were unsure if blonde meant less caffeine than the Signature Espresso. Some were just… confused. Most took to social to figure it out.

As an avid Starbucks drinker and loyalist myself, I follow the brand on social media and am often targeted with ads. On launch day, I kept a close eye on social and the reception by the general public before making my purchase later in the afternoon. While many remained a little confused, most users loved it! My Instagram discovery page was a sea of artistic lifestyle photos of coffee cups. If I didn’t know better, I would have thrown on a crop top and bomber jacket and completely embraced the throwback to 2014.

While Starbucks paid to sponsor the hashtag #BlondeEspresso on Twitter and Facebook, the conversation continued organically for several days after. To learn more on capitalizing on relevant topics, check out 4 Ways to Stay Relevant by Tapping Into Trending Topics. Consumers and brands were quick to share their feelings on the new product, some even writing long form reviews. From The Daily Meal, to The Washington Post, everyone had an opinion. The Daily Meal’s Taylor Rock gushed about the rollout of the new product.

“I’ve always heard that blondes have more fun — and it turns out that blonde roasts taste better. From the first sip of my plastic coffee chalice, I was enamored.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, The Washington Post’s Tim Carman caustically expressed his feelings for the brand holistically and his experience trying the Blonde Espresso.

“I felt as if I were drinking a Grand Cru from a Dixie cup.”

Regardless of whether customers love or hate it, they’re shelling out to see what all the buzz is about. Starbucks once again proves the old adage to be true; there’s no such thing as bad press.

For decades, Starbucks has been known for their publicity stunts and cult like following. This past spring, they showcased both with the craze of the Unicorn Frappuccino, and the media frenzy that followed. Starbucks is known globally as a leader in strategic advertising with one of the most widely recognized logos to match. The Blonde Espresso campaign and product launch has been no different. The outpouring of commentary from fans and critics alike was likely part of the coffee giant’s strategy all along. The yellow may be blinding, and the name may sound contradictory, but Starbucks is finally putting an age-old question to bed. According to their enthusiasts, a tall blonde really does have more fun.

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