Blending Unicorns and Coffee: A Bizarre Experiment And What We Learned From It.

May 05, 2017

Blending Unicorns and Coffee: A Bizarre Experiment And What We Learned From It.

starbucks unicorn frappuccino
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Disclaimer: We aren’t actually advocating the literal blending of unicorns and coffee.

Unicorns.  If you’ve been online at all recently (in the last 2 years), you know how obsessed the internet is with unicorns.  There are unicorn onesie’s, unicorn stuffed animals, animals dressed up as stuffed unicorns, unicorn movies, unicorn makeup tutorials, and yes, even unicorn drinks.  But why the obsession with unicorns?  

Unicorns are mythical creatures that are typically associated with peace, joy, and happiness (unless you’re this guy).  Maybe that’s why we love them so much.  Maybe it’s because they’re kinda funny looking, maybe they remind us of our childlike innocence. After hours of research (ok, it was 20 minutes) I was unable to truly figure out what the appeal of unicorns is.  Regardless, people love them to the point of obsession and many businesses are trying to take advantage of this latest, albeit bizarre trend. 

Should you exploit this obsession with unicorns for monetary gain? Well, that depends. Unicorn Marketing may or may not be a good fit for your brand, but if you’re able to jump on a trend to help your marketability, why wouldn’t you?  While the unicorn phenomenon is nothing new, one company was able to exploit our growing fascination with these beautiful beasts and garner additional market share with a very colorful (sorry, I had to) new product. You probably already know I’m talking about Starbucks’ ubiquitous Unicorn Frappuccino.

Did it work? Was this experiment a success? Well, that depends on the expected outcomes. Starbucks’ limited edition Unicorn Frappuccino certainly generated a massive conversation and was met with decidedly contrasting opinions. We won’t know whether it improved sales for a few months, but here are some examples of what people had to say about this bold new take on traditional coffee.

Thousands of people tweeted.  Some liked it:

Celebrities were not exempt from the lull of the sweet nectar that is the Starbucks Unicorn Frappe. Even fictional celebrities got in on the action! This is what Professor Snape had to say:

One of my favorite tweets came from @TakingFiveHQ.  At the time of this monitor, they had a reach of 90,000 and additional spread of 61.5 million people! You can see from this dashboard that they have the most spread by a huge margin. Since then @TakingFiveHQ has grown to a following of more than 100,000 and could be a fantastic influencer for Starbucks. If I were a marketer for Starbucks and had access to this information I would certainly reach out to them to promote the next product release.

NUVI monitors Starbucks frappuccino

Here’s the @TakingFiveHQ tweet that had such a huge spread:

— Piques (@piques15) April 25, 2017

Not everyone was a fan. Take a look at some of the negative reviews:

NUVI monitors Starbucks frappuccino


Through our monitor, we were able to identify many individuals who weren’t fans of the rainbowed beverage. For example, in the image above, we were immediately curious about the large blue circle from the East Coast. On this map, the larger the circle the more influence a specific mention has. The colors represent sentiment. In this case, the largest circle on the map belongs to @dbrand who tweeted that buying a new “Black Dragon” iPhone case can redeem the lost self-respect that comes from a Starbucks Unicorn Frappe. @dbrand has a Twitter following of around 89k. That particular tweet had 135 comments, 346 retweets, and 2.6k retweets.

Even though @dbrand was obviously making fun of the drink and anyone who would buy it, Starbucks could easily engage with them via Twitter and respond to their criticism. It may not change their opinion of Starbucks’ drink, but it would show that Starbucks listens to their audience and is willing to have a conversation. And who knows, maybe they invite them in to sample another custom drink or offer them a free coffee for their feedback and create another influencer and all it took was a tweet. Through social listening, your company can quickly find those who are already talking about your company or your competitors, for good or bad, and easily engage with those influencers.

Some of these tweets were so clever that maybe Starbucks should use our monitors to identify and reach out to these people and offer them jobs in advertising.

Katy Perry went so far as to add a video to her Instagram story of her trying the drink and then spitting it back out…yummy.

I love her, I have no words 😍 @katyperry #katyperry #katycats #KP4 #keiry 😏

A post shared by KATY PERRY (@katyperrygoals) on

It even started a health debate:

One person said Starbucks was only doing it to get people to take pictures of their drinks.  Who cares?!  Look at the conversation that Starbucks initiated.  Thousands of tweets, retweets, and comments, all surrounding their new drink.  I don’t have access to their financials, but I’d imagine that Starbucks saw a jump in their sales last week that is only now beginning to taper off.  Good marketing?  I’d say so!

We only let the monitor run for six days, but in that time we analyzed over 500,000 mentions and from our report found that original mentions had a potential of reaching 1,949,345,201 people and in the same timeframe, those mentions spread to 336,727,461 additional people via Re-Tweets and Shares. We learned that Twitter seemed to be the platform of choice (as it tends to be for current events like the Pepsi and United scandals).
Starbucks unicorn frappe


We also identified other companies decided to jump on the bandwagon and piggyback Starbucks’ press:

In this tweet, Adobe Illustrator is using the Starbucks Unicorn drink to promote their own software. “If you’re drinking one, then you might as well illustrate it! Learn to create a magical unicorn:” In addition to using a social listening service to identify influencers, you can also use it to identify potential collaborators. Some of the most creative ad campaigns come from the unlikely pairing of products and services. Even if the frappuccino itself wasn’t a huge financial success, it generated a significant conversation and Starbucks could use that data for future collaborations.

NUVI monitors Starbucks frappuccino


Waterpik even used it as a chance to give away a flosser:

With people actively searching the internet for unicorns, the marketing possibilities are endless! But if the research for this post has taught us anything it is that this event, like so many others, has a very short lifespan. As an audience, we are intrigued, obsessed, but only for 15 minutes and then we move on to the next thing. Your ability to capitalize on the virality of a blog post, magazine article, or current event goes away once the public gets bored. Therefore, it is prudent to be actively involved in a social listening campaign to ensure you are always in the know and have as much time as possible to identify influencers and get your messaging out there and seen by as many people as quickly as possible.


What are you doing to be part of the latest trend?  How quickly are you able to listen, engage, and analyze your social intelligence? Have questions? We’d love to hear from you


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