Case Study of Success: Starbucks’ Refreshing Refresha WeChat App


In 2012, Starbucks launched a brand new product made from green coffee bean extract called Refresha. In order to introduce the new drink on a large scale to their Chinese consumers, the coffee giant launched a social media campaign that was both fun and memorable and also effectively persuaded their fans to actively participate.

Using WeChat as the platform to spark off Refresha among their customers, Starbucks started the campaign by placing QR codes in their stores on posters and cup sleeves so that users could scan and add the coffee chain as a friend on WeChat. The coffee chain then created a playlist of 26 songs to engage with their customers.

Fans were invited to send in an emoticon to express their mood or feelings and Starbucks would respond with an appropriate song to match their mood and cheer up their followers.

Over the course of 4 weeks, Starbucks gained approximately 130,000 WeChat friends and sales volume for Refresha hit RMB 7.5 million in just 3 weeks. All of this was accomplished on a budget of just RMB 250,000 and the results of the campaign were profound. In addition to this, the brand’s Sina Weibo account saw an increase in fans of 9% and generated more than 57,000 reposts and comments.

This fun and interactive mobile app created an opportunity for Starbucks to communicate with an particularly large audience while maintaining individual appeal to fans and communicating with them on a personal level.

Starbucks’ innovative approaching towards social media marketing should be an example to be followed and they have shown that they truly understand their customers’ tastes.

This campaign also shows that WeChat can be an incredibly efficient and effective tool in social media marketing in China. It also suggests that Chinese consumers use many different social media platforms and that, by successfully using one, you can strengthen your standing on another.

About Author

Not yet an 'old China hand', Sam Elliott is a British man who is passionately curious about the Middle Kingdom. He's a recent transplant to LA and has made it his mission to spread the word about great Chinese brands. When he's not working, he loves to keep active, eat vegan and learn study Chinese.

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