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What Your Brand Can Learn from the Unicorn Frappuccino’s Social Media Impact

Unicorn-themed products have popped up everywhere. The term “unicorn” has been used an average of 29,266 times daily on social within the past 30 days alone. When people came up with unicorn-themed food, it was only a matter of time before Starbucks, a brand which has taken social marketing to a new level, came out with a drink to leverage this trend.

Inspired by a blog post Tripti wrote in January on Wendy’s epic week, I wanted to see how this visually appealing drink affected Starbucks’ Instagram presence, and what other brands can learn from the campaign. I used social analytics to collect data for the brand’s two Instagram handles, Starbucks and Frappuccino. Here’s what I found.

Inspire on Social, Close the Deal in Stores

Starbucks posted a photo of the Unicorn Frappuccino on its main account the day it launched. That post received 622,323 Likes and comments—more than double the engagement of Starbucks’ average post.

Instagram also posted a picture on their Frappuccino Instagram account. For this account, the #UnicornFrappuccino generated the most engagement, as well.

There have been rumors about this drink being created for the sole purpose of Instagram. A Starbucks spokesperson told The Guardian,

The look of the beverage was an important part of its creation, our inspiration came from the fun, spirited and colourful unicorn-themed food and drinks that have been trending in social media.

By posting the two photos above on their Instagram accounts, Starbucks created a unique look and status associated with the drink. Then the brand used a call-to-action to let followers know that they are available in stores (and for a limited time).

What brands can do: Give customers a product they’re likely to engage with and purchase by analyzing their social media activities. A great tool for doing this is listening. Then use your social media accounts to generate interest and awareness of your launch/campaign with unique, compelling visual content.

Stay Relevant

With the Unicorn Frappuccino, Starbucks has built a product which leverages both increased Instagram adoption—Instagram has upwards of 150 million active users today, and growing fast—and the popularity of unicorn-themed products.

10% of Starbucks’ Instagram engagement for the year can be attributed to the five days this drink was available.

By knowing what their audience wants, Starbucks was able to determine when their audience would want it.

What brands can do: Use listening to determine a good launch date for products by learning what your audience is saying about your brand. What your customers say about your brand can indicate what is working and what is missing in the market right now—AKA gaps you can fill and profit from. The amount of times a problem or praise is mentioned will help prioritize what needs to be changed first.

Allow User-Generated Content to Drive Marketing

From April 19 to April 23 (the days that the Unicorn Frappuccino was available for purchase), 90,000 pictures were posted on Instagram using the hashtag #unicornfrappuccino. Only two of these photos were organically posted by Starbucks.

What brands can do: Create a hashtag for followers to use whenever they engage with your brand or a specific product or product line.

When your social audience uses your hashtag, explore their content and consider reposting it on your owned account, or at least reaching out and acknowledging the content, to encourage brand advocacy. This means less work for you, and a stronger bond with your social audience. Give fans a shoutout and thank them for sharing your brand and product with their own followers—followers likely to fit your target profiles and become your customers, too.

Sharing your followers’ content will also give you more credibility, since real customers love your brand enough to put it on their social accounts. Other followers will start to notice you reposting pictures. They will soon start using your hashtag, hoping to be featured.

Use FOMO to Your Advantage

Starbucks has many limited-time-only drinks. The Pumpkin Spice Latte and Chestnut Praline are available for seasons at a time, but the Unicorn Frappuccino was only available for five days. This time limit resulted in the drink being tagged more times than any of their other drinks.
During the last two days the Unicorn Frappuccino was available, Starbucks’ main Instagram account increased by 33,283 followers. Their @frappuccino account increased by a little over 3K.

Main Starbucks account
@frappuccino followers over time

Because the Unicorn Frappuccino was only available for five days, and it sold out in most locations on the first, Starbucks was able to use the fear of missing out to continue gaining followers.

What brands can do: If your brand has a limited-edition item, and people ask about it once supplies have run out, instead of simply telling them disappointing news, point them to your social presence and explain that, by following you, they won’t miss out on the next limited-edition item.

Thanks to the Unicorn Frappuccino, Starbucks’ Instagram account gained over 30,000 followers in the final two days the drink was available (despite most locations running out of ingredients). Over 84,000 people posted a photo on Instagram using the hashtag Starbucks created, and their organic posts made up less than 1% of the content created around the Unicorn Frappuccino.

Turns out, creating a product that is social media–friendly, making it available for a short period of time, and using a hashtag so users can feel like part of a community makes for a great marketing campaign. Want to learn how to build your own? Download our Creative Campaigns guide below.

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Laurie Anne Nilo

I'm the Social Media Manager here at Simply Measured. I love all things wellness, coffee, watercolor, and travel.

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