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‘Tis the Season

Photo: Starbucks.com

You know what we mean, the Starbucks holiday cup season, of course. Since its introduction 20 years ago this year, the unveiling of the now iconic Starbucks holiday cup has come to be a hotly anticipated event; fraught with speculation and often debate. A leak in mid-October of what turned out to be the design this year by a Reddit user (and presumably a Starbucks employee) had many people rebuking the poster for spoiling the surprise. Yes, all this, for a cup that will be thrown away following a brief one-time use.

And Starbucks continues the quest to own the holiday space, with the Halloween Frappuccino now marking its fourth year of existence. Add in the change of season fall and spring cups, not to mention the ever earlier appearing pumpkin spice latte (#PSL), seasonal food items, and it appears that, no matter what the time of year, it’s always a good time to visit a Starbucks. A classic example of great branding from which all companies, including financial services, could gain a few pointers in terms of being:

1. Constant – Starbucks is continuously out there exploring what they can do to reinforce and build awareness of the brand throughout every part of the customer journey through multiple touchpoints, especially important as business innovations, such as Starbucks’ very successful mobile app, reduces human interaction

2. Consistent – All efforts are consistent with the values and products that Starbucks promotes, with the goal of personalizing and localizing what is, at the end of the day, a large multinational food and beverage purveyor

3. Bold – While you always want and plan for your marketing efforts to be received positively, it’s important to resist reining back or watering down what you do from fear of negative reception. Learn from missteps and move on; who can forget the debacle over Starbucks’ alleged lack of holiday spirit when it introduced (gasp!) plain red cups for the holiday season in 2015. I think we can all safely say they won’t do that again.

4. Tangible – This is probably the most difficult area for wealth and asset management companies; your product or solution can’t be touched, held or really seen in a three-dimensional way. In this respect, your people and your knowledge may be the most tangible manifestations of what and how you deliver, so the challenge is how to market them impactfully