Marketing The Infamous Unicorn Drink

I spy something pink, blue, and sparkly all over.

5/22/2017 Digital Marketing

I spy with my little eye something pink, blue, and sparkly all over.  Did you guess it? Anyone who is spending even the shortest amount of time in the social media world can guess that this was what your Instagram feed looked like last month due to none other than the (insta)ntly famous Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino, more commonly known as the #UnicornDrink. Every marketer is saying how this is truly a majestic creature, as the announcement of this drink reeled in 595k likes and 32k comments…on Instagram alone. 

Making the product even more exclusive, Starbucks released this much-anticipated drink for a limited time of 5 days.  That means only 5 days to find a store that still had the ingredients if they didn’t run out in the first day, 5 days to find the perfect outfit to compliment the pink and blue, and 5 days to take a photo for all the world to see.  

If you ask us, only Starbucks could take on the task of selling a crème based Frappuccino mixed with mango syrup, drizzled with blue white mocha, and topped with sour blue and pink unicorn dust and make the #basic trend, a top money maker.  But the question everyone wants answers to is, “How did this Unicorn Frappuccino herd in so many followers?”

The drink’s success is a combination of Starbucks implementing a (Unicorn)ucopia of marketing tactics and knowing exactly who their audience is.

Starbucks was brilliant knowing which target audience this drink should hit -- women ranging from their late teens to mid-20s who were most likely into fashion, art, blogging, and photography.  When you have a drink that emulates a #basic college student with flowers in hair on their way to Coachella (you know who you are) you are bound to attract a swarm of people.

Social Media
If you notice, Starbucks had limited to no advertising or posting about this crazy drink, but one single Instagram photo announcing the limited time offer.  This tactic was “foal-proof” as their customers did all the marketing for them.  Each Unicorn drink was so Insta-worthy that a photograph session had to happen post drink order. In 5 days, the hashtag #unicornfrappuccino racked up 149k uses – a.k.a. a whole lot of free marketing. Each picture paired the drink with exotic hair, eclectic makeup, and pastel outfits, ensuring that someone will stop and look while scrolling on their feed.

The final clever marketing tool used was making this product exclusive.  Customers had a mere 5 days to be able to find a store and buy the drink.  Making this product available for a limited time started a sense of urgency, rapid interest, and a want to participate.  This was a perfect example of how real FOMO can be.

The combination of knowing who their audience was, making an eye-catching product, and releasing for a limited time made the mag-neigh-ficent Unicorn Frappuccino one of the best examples of marketing, done right.

If you missed out on this fun drink, here are some reactions from the Buzzfeed crew who had a taste test.


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