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How the Unicorn Frappuccino Generated Over 100K Instagram Posts in 3 days

Question: How do you spend $0 on advertising, but still get over 100K Instagram posts in just 3 days?

Answer: Create a viral product! Focus solely on the social media community and produce an Instagram-perfect drink.

That's right. If you've spent even a second on Instagram in the past week, you'll know that Starbucks quickly came and went with their limited edition Unicorn Frappuccino. In fact, it went viral in a mere three days. THREE!

It only took three days to gather over 100K Instagram posts with the hashtag #unicornfrappuccino, and that's not even including the posts with different variations of the hashtag (i.e. #unicornfrapp, #unicornfrappuccino🦄, etc.) as well as posts where Starbucks was tagged directly. If that's not viral, I don't know what is!

But the question everyone's asking is "How?"

How did Starbucks manage to get more than 100,000 unique visitors through the door in such a short period of time?" and better yet, "How did they get so many people to share it on Instagram?"

From a marketing perspective, it's pretty simple.


Make it social media friendly.

When Starbucks creates a new drink, they tend to stay on the safe side - this includes coffee, black & white, and basic syrup flavors. It's very rare for them to stray from their brand, but when they do, they go big!

Starbucks concocted a drink that was on trend (because who doesn't love unicorns right now?), peaked customers' interests, and was highly-photogenic. The took a basic frappuccino (one of their most popular drinks!) and put a dash of unicorn into it. Their final product was a pink and blue blended frappuccino that, when consumed, changed flavors from sweet to sour.

"The look of the beverage was an important part of its creation. Our inspiration came from the fun, spirited and colorful unicorn-themed food and drinks that have been trending on social media." - A Starbucks spokesperson (via Mashable).

What's actually inside of this drink besides milk & ice is pink powder (whatever that entails), mango syrup, and blue sour drizzle. This is then topped with a swirl of whipped cream and sprinkled with more pink powder.

Now, whether this is tasty or not is questionable - I've heard positive and negative comments alike. But Starbucks was likely going for a more aesthetically-pleasing, Instagrammable drink than a delicious frappuccino that everyone would like.


Focus on a specific demographic.

Let's look at some demographics. Within Instagram's 600 million active users:

  • 55% are between 18- to 29-years old;

  • Women use Instagram more than men;

  • 32% of online adults who live in urban areas are using Instagram.

So basically, female millennials who live in urban areas are primarily active on Instagram.

It's comes as no surprise that Starbucks analyzed this demographic and curated their newest drink to grasp the attention of this group of gals. And that's exactly what happened - millennials and teens alike rushed to the doors of their closest coffee chain store and ordered these drinks. But before they took a single sip, they snapped a pic and posted it directly to their Instagram.

#UnicornFrappuccino, amirite?🦄


Limited Edition.

Timing is everything, and Starbucks nailed this! The second to last week of April, where most areas of the country are starting to experience warm weather and people are getting stoked for summer. And what better way to enjoy that feeling than with a bright, unique drink from Starbucks.

Not only that, but when someone hears that something is Limited Edition, they'll flock to the store - and that's what happened! Across the United States, people lined up at Starbucks everyday to get their hands on this pink and blue concoction.

When something has a deadline, like the ability to get your hands on a Unicorn Frappuccino, there's a greater desire for it because you know this is your one and only chance.


Now whether this creation was simply Instagram-bait, that's a different story. It likely was! When you introduce a drink that the majority of people agree is terrible-tasting, is it really worth introducing it? It honestly depends on what your reputation is. Starbucks is definitely safe from any hate they get with millions upon millions of customers coming through their doors every month.

But basically, what we're learning from this experience in terms of marketing is that the Starbucks company is a mastermind. They created a Limited Edition, trendy drink that consumed social media for a mere 5 days and didn't have to spend one penny on advertising. They let social media run its route and created a viral product.

But just because Starbucks stopped serving the Unicorn Frappuccino, that doesn't mean that it's the end of the fun-pink-drink-trend. The Starbucks inside the Happiest Place on Earth (that's right, Disneyland!) just created their own concoction -- the Pink Pegasus Frappuccino. Because #UnicornFrappuccino is so last week!

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