What the Starbucks Reward Program Can Teach You

Yesterday I finally crossed the line from a “Green” Rewards member at Starbucks to a “Gold” member after having acquired 30 stars in my digital cup in a 12-month period.

I could have had this milestone a lot sooner if I had just been aware of the program much earlier – my brother first introduced it to me three or four months ago and I was surprised at some of the neat perks that he was getting for consuming so much of their product. Some of these include:

  • A Free Beverage on Your Birthday
  • Free Beverage Customization
  • Free Brewed Coffee or Tea Refills with Each Visit
  • Free Tall Beverage with Whole Bean Purchase
  • Free Trial Offers
  • Free Drink Every 15 Stars
  • Personalized Gold Card
  • Personalized Offers and Coupons

To be honest it was the Personalized Gold Card that I really wanted the most – a physical symbol of my commitment to this darn establishment that I willingly allow to take my money weekly (if not daily)!

Being as competitive as I am it wasn’t enough to “start from scratch” so I dug around to see if I had an old Starbucks.com account and I did in fact have an old account – whew! I love the feeling of being a “leg up,” right?

There we go...!

But something fascinating started happening as I marched toward my Gold status – I changed some of my interaction with Starbucks because I was shooting for an explicit goal. Here are some of the changes that occurred:

  • I started offering to pay for other people’s drinks more. I wanted the “stars” darn it!
  • I made the explicit choice to goto Starbucks before I headed out anywhere else, especially if coffee was going to be part of that morning (even if the location had coffee).
  • I opted for coffee more often than not when other drinks were available.
  • I felt bad if I forgot my phone or card at home and was very tempted to turn around and go get it just so that I could get those points!
  • I had a mental countdown until I could get to the next level. It was on my mind a lot more, in other words.

Incredible, right? Did their program work? Absolutely. I bought more product and spent more time at Starbucks than I typically do. Simply put, they won.

[tentblogger-vimeo 34897015]

What’s fascinating is that some of the best blogs out there do this well too – they increase engagement and expand their brand by being “that” place that their readers want to hang out at. They provide much more than just content, although that’s a critical component – they create an emotional tie with the reader that gets them coming back.

In addition, they incentivize their readers to return, day-in and day-out. We could learn a thing or two about that!


Whether it’s simply recognizing our users, creating “competition” via comments or top posts, having giveaways and prizes, or simply engaging them really well in the comments – it’s all part of a really robust strategy to win your readers over again and again.

There’s a lot that just “works” with Starbucks’ Reward Program and I think we can capture some good learnings from it.

Are you a part of their program? What do you see that’s really working?

I do "feel" like I'm a "favorite"!

Hmm. This is making me thirsty!