How the Starbucks Experience Became Contagious


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How did Starbucks open 20,000+ stores in 60+ countries, achieving a $60B+ market capitalization? It wasn't just about the coffee. We draw lessons from Jonah Berger's book "Contagious" to explain the success and growth of Starbucks.

Published in: Marketing, Business, Technology

How the Starbucks Experience Became Contagious

  1. More Than Coffee:   How the Starbucks Experience Became “Contagious” How did Starbucks open 20,000+ stores in 60+ countries, achieving a $60B+ market capitalization? It wasn’t just about the coffee.
  2. We recently read “Contagious,” which helped us understand why things catch on. The book is by Jonah Berger. If you’re a B2B marketer, you should read it. Why do things catch on? Berger identifies six ingredients. Let’s explore further. “Contagious” by Jonah Berger on Amazon
  3. The 6 Ingredients 1.  Social currency: We share things that make us look good. 2.  Triggers: Top of mind, tip of tongue. 3.  Emotion: When we care, we share. 4.  Public: Built to show, built to grow. 5.  Practical Value: News you can use. 6.  Stories: Information travels under the guise of idle chatter. Source: Page 207 of the book’s hardcover edition.
  4. According to Berger, brands don’t need to achieve all six ingredients. But the more, the better. Let’s consider Starbucks.
  5. Social Currency Social currency propelled the growth of Starbucks. People want to be seen at Starbucks or, holding a cup adorned with the Starbucks logo. Photo from
  6. Triggers Action: “I need to get a coffee from Starbucks.” The trigger to cause that action: “I feel…” •  •  •  Tired Down Bored That’s right: •  •  •  Sad Happy Like celebrating feelings (and their associated yearnings) are a trigger that fueled Starbucks’ growth.  
  7. Emotion From community to ethical sourcing, from the environment to global responsibility, Starbucks has fostered an emotional connection with customers and communities. “Join your neighbors and volunteer with us,” they say.
  8. Public We started to see the green mermaid in our sleep. Whether the gym, the subway or the office cubicle, the Starbucks brand became ingrained into the culture of America (and soon on many more continents). The product was consumed in public and the public sure did notice. Starbucks became a “walking brand.” Photo from
  9. Practical Value Let’s face it: coffee is a commodity. But Starbucks provides much more than coffee. Think of its practical value. Meeting a potential business partner? Meet at Starbucks. Need to do some work on your laptop or tablet? Go to Starbucks. Where to take the soccer team after a nice win? Starbucks. We go for the practical value as much as the coffee.
  10. Starbucks’ Report Earlier, we referred to Berger’s six ingredients. Now, let’s see how well you were paying attention. How many did Starbucks achieve? A)  0-2 B)  3-4 C)  5 D)  6 E)  All of the above 2+2-1 +3-1= ? Card
  11. If you answered “E”, We need to send you here: The answer was…
  12. “C” Starbucks achieves 5 out of Berger’s 6 ingredients: 1.  Social currency 2.  Triggers 3.  Emotion 4.  Public 5.  Practical Value
  13. B2B Marketers:   Steal These Ideas Social currency: Place social sharing buttons throughout your content (including SlideShare’s and PDF’s) Triggers: Achieve and reinforce brand association (e.g. “Staples” -> “Easy”) Emotion: Create a user experience that delights, inspires and wows. Public: Grow your user base by giving away limited quantities of your product away for free. Or, consider a freemium business model. Practical Value: Solve your customers’ greatest challenges without breaking the bank.
  14. B2B Marketers:   Read Our Blog Post for More Details What Contagious (The Book) Teaches Us about the Growth of Starbucks