In the News

Caribou Coffee uses social media to spearhead evolution

March 14, 2012
Source: FastCasual

When Caribou Coffee underwent a brand relaunch in late 2009, the company was looking to re-energize its guest experience. Three years later, Caribou has reformulated almost every aspect of its customer-facing structure and is using social media to ensure its evolution continues down the right path.

Through its recently launched You + Your Bou campaign, Caribou executives are getting an inside look at what their customers are all about – and what they're looking for from their Caribou experiences.

According to a new study from The Hartman Group and Publicis Consultants USA, social media has had a major impact on what Americans eat and has infiltrated the dining experience in many ways. The study, "Clicks & Cravings: The Impact of Social Technology on Food Culture," revealed that almost half of consumers learn about food via social networking sites, and 40 percent learn about food via websites, apps or blogs.

“The best social and digital campaigns reflect the audience’s values, interests, concerns and aspirations,” said Steve Bryant, president of Publicis Consultants USA, which co-sponsored the study.

The You + Your Bou promotion asks consumers to tweet about how Caribou fuels their lives, using the hastag #MyBou. The goal of the promotion is two-fold: to further engage Caribou's guests outside the four walls and to better understand who their guests are.

"We don't dictate what our brand looks and feels like, while we do have some parameters," said Alfredo Martel, Caribou’s Senior VP of Marketing & Product Management. "You + Your Bou is going to inform us about the role of our brand in the daily life of our fans. It will bring back to the brand some new knowledge about how we augment the daily lives of our fans."

Product management

Caribou was recently acknowledged as being as the most recommended coffeehouse in online conversations, a testament to the power of its social network.

“Social media is like word of mouth advertising on steroids so it clearly is more influential than ever, but making sense of all the unstructured feedback is the game-changing opportunity,” said Ashish Gambhir, co-founder of newBrandAnalytics.

Caribou uses its social media insights to determine which new products to launch, when and where, but Martel advises other marketers to watch the numbers.

"We as marketers have seen the horror story of the one bad customer experience that gets tweeted. It's a data point of one, but it's one that gets magnified," he said. "So, we sometimes have to be mindful of making sure we understand the breadth and scope of what's out there. We might get 100 tweets of something desired, but we as a brand won't create a new product based on 100 tweets. We're open to the brand being flexible, but we also have to make sure we don't disenfranchise folks because we're pursuing the next shiny object. And if you're so fluid as a brand you lose your core set values, then you've got trouble."

If the company receives a large number of tweets or requests for a specific product, the company has the option of launching it as a limited-time-offer to determine marketplace feasibility.

For example, the company launched a lavender mocha LTO that Martel said executives thought was cutting edge, but they were unsure of its acceptance with guests.

"We rolled it out as LTO and it did very well for us," he said. "An item might not be a daily product, but as an LTO it does have a role."

Its latest You + Your Bou campaign has already surpassed 200,000 impressions and is expected to run through March 30.

"Frankly, for a brand like ours, we don't have a lot of money to spend in media so we better be good in this type of network in terms or broadcast and power," Martel said.

"We know in this space we have ample room for impact because of our well-established social network presence; that's why this is an important strategy in terms of our marketing mix: it's the great neutralizer. For us, it's also a way to extend what we drive in-store every day with the human connection and have our fans be a part of our brand."