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Starbucks makes SMS cornerstone of multichannel political campaign

Starbucks continues to make mobile a focal point of its marketing with a new multichannel campaign to drum up support in ending the government shutdown.

Last week, Starbucks launched a digital campaign spanning mobile, Web and social to drive petition sign-ups to end the conflict in Washington called Come Together. Mobile consistently plays a role in the brand?s marketing efforts, and the decision to use SMS for this campaign is likely to reach as many consumers as possible to drive sign-ups.

?SMS is an excellent way for Starbucks to drive sign-up for this initiative,? said Cezar Kolodziej, CEO/president of Iris Mobile, Chicago.

?The large majority of Starbucks customers know how to interact with the brand via text, and the barrier for entry is much lower than via call, email or other channels,? he said.

Mr. Kolodziej is not affiliated with Starbucks. He commented based on his expertise on the subject.

Starbucks did not respond to press inquiries.

Mobile, social change
Starbucks also created a microsite at where consumers can learn more about the petition and add their names to the list. 

To stay up to date on the status of Starbucks? process with Washington, consumers can either sign up for alerts via email or SMS.

The SMS portion of the campaign is clearly highlighted on the microsite with a call-to-action below that prompts consumers to text the keyword JOIN to 20757.

Once the message is sent, consumers are sent back a reply message notifying them that their support has been added to the petition. 

For a campaign that aims to reach the biggest amount of consumers, SMS is a safe bet for Starbucks.

When the campaign winds down, Starbucks would be smart to prompt consumers to join the coffee giant?s main SMS program to stay up to date on offers and promotions from the brand.

Mobile-prominent social media is also playing a big role in Starbucks? campaign.

On Friday, Starbucks leveraged Instagram?s video feature to upload a clip of CEO Howard Schulz encouraging consumers to sign a petition in-store that asks the government to come together to solve the nation?s problems.

As of Monday afternoon, the video clip had generated more than 30,000 ?Likes? on Instagram.

A bigger social media component to the campaign is taking place via Facebook, Twitter and Google + with the hashtag #ComeTogether.
Starbucks also ran full-page online ads in publications such as USA Today and the New York Times.
"Starbucks digital engagement is all about building relevant relationships in a timely, relevant manner," said Alex Wheeler, vice president of global digital marketing at Starbucks, Seattle.
"For Come Together, it was important that we met our customers right where they were at and communicated with them in a way that was engaging and easy for them to complete the call-to-action," he said. "SMS was a strong tool to build awareness, activate our customers and keep them informed and engaged along the way."

Striking a cause
This is not the first time that Starbucks has advocated for public change via a wide-reaching consumer campaign.

The first Come Together campaign launched last year as a rebuttal against the 2012 fiscal cliff debate. The coffee giant has also publicly addressed gun control and political contributions over the years.

Other brands besides Starbucks that are chiming in on the government shutdown via Twitter and Instagram include Red Bull and Kenneth Cole.

Based on Starbucks? past marketing efforts, it is no surprise that the company added a mobile component to its campaign.

Starbucks is one of the brands in the mobile space that continually takes its SMS efforts to a new engagement level with each campaign that the brand runs.

This past spring, Starbucks used a combination of SMS and MMS with a trivia question to incentivize consumers to opt-in to a summer mobile campaign. Once consumers answered a trivia question, Starbucks then detected what type of device a consumer was using to tailor a follow-up MMS message (see story).

Starbucks generated 10 percent of revenue from mobile during the third-quarter this year, pointing to the strong ecosystem that the company has created with its mobile payment services (see story). 

Starbucks does not only use mobile to drive sales though, as evidenced by the current Come Together campaign.

Instead of pushing sales, the company is leveraging mobile to reach the widest group of digitally-connected consumers as possible.

?We advise brands that mobile messaging should always be part of a multi-channel program,? Mr. Kolodziej said.

?By increasing the reach of the initiative via online, social, etc., brands are capturing the attention of a larger audience and ultimately increasing the impact of their campaign,? he said.

Final Take
Lauren  Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York