A Promo Gold Rush? After Starbucks Korea's Hugely Popular Summer Giveaway, Other Brands Are Lining Up to Try Similar Promotions
Last July, Starbucks struck promo gold with an outdoors promotion in South Korea. The premise was simple: redeem Starbucks rewards points for either a suitcase or branded folding chair. Those products became so popular in Korea that people purchased hundreds of drinks at a time just so they could get the promos.
Starbucks Summer-ready bag (Green) pic.twitter.com/xayTlWkdGo
— Jay Lim 𝕏 (@aQuoteAday) May 18, 2020
After seeing a Starbucks promo (and a fairly unremarkable one at that) become the it-product last summer, other Korean brands are trying to catch that same lightning in a different bottle.
Chains like McDonald’s, Dunkin’ (via regional subsidiary SPC Grou) and Lotte Confectionary started giving out camping gear and suitcases as customer loyalty incentives. The strangest thing is just how similar to Starbucks’ promotion some of these seem to be.
The Korea Times reported that the Lotte Confectionary suitcases “look almost identical to Starbucks Korea’s mega-hit Summer Ready Bag that went out of stock instantly after its release.”
It makes sense for brands to try to build off of another brand's hype, but it also seems like this will yield diminishing returns. Whatever magic Starbucks had in its products just worked. Sure, they were some sleek suitcases and good-looking chairs. That’s first and foremost what made them initially popular. But it's hard to pinpoint exactly what it was that drove people into a frenzy and pushed the items into “must-have” category.
The Korea Times noted that some industry sources are skeptical about the whole endeavor.
"It is not the item itself that people like,” one unnamed source said. “People like merchandise with the Starbucks logo on them. If a firm does not have strong brand power, its collectible merchandise has to be a quality product, because if it is not, then people won't even look at it.”
Starbucks is introducing another summer promo, too. This time it’ll be a cooler and a “Summer Night Singing Lantern,” which reportedly is already going for up-charged prices on resell sites. Starbucks also partnered with the L’Escape Hotel in Seoul to give one of the two products to guests who stay there. And to prevent those long lines of people trying to buy 300 cups of coffee, Starbucks made the products online through normal e-commerce means (which ultimately ended in the site crashing due to 10 times more traffic than usual).
The two products will go back on sale on May 20 and 27.
So, maybe there is something to the idea that it’s the Starbucks name that made these products so popular. That’s even more reason for other brands not to try to copy them. If people want Starbucks, they’re going to buy Starbucks.
But it's still pretty cool that one brand managed to start a country-wide promotional products gold rush and inspire other brands to try promo for themselves.