Wake up and smell the pastry!

Few days before, I saw this new APP of Starbucks on the Internet, and it aroused my interest.


Wake up and smell the pastry! After you download the ‘Good Morning’ APP of Starbucks, you may receive 50% discount on all breakfast items in any Starbucks store. Attractive, isn’t it? But please wait a moment; there are some rules you have to follow. The app includes an alarm clock and counter. Once a user wakes up, he or she has 60 minutes to reach a Starbucks branch and order breakfast. If they are late—-no discount.

This App is in use in China now. Considering that breakfast in Starbucks costs at least 15 RMB in China, which is much more expensive compared with Chinese traditional breakfast, this App sounds quite attractive. But, can you imagine that you will be associated with a brand almost from you wake up every day? Maybe we need to know something about brand association.

Brand associations are anything in a customer’s memory linked to a specific brand (Gladden and Funk, 2004). The ads below can show the strong brand association of McDonald.

Consumers might associate a brand with a particular attribute or feature, usage situation, product spokesperson, or logo (John et al., 2012), such as the big yellow M and the APP of Starbucks. In order to organize such strong association network, firms are suggested to obtain brand map first.


From the brand map of McDonald above, we can find that it not only identifies important brand associations but also conveys how these associations are linked to the brand and to one another. The brand map covers several key points connected directly to McDonald’s brand, i.e. ‘service’ & ‘value’, which are closely tied to brand meaning (John et al., 2012). With these key points, firms can make its brand meaning, value and targets clear, then, it will be easy for them to build strong association with customers.

Nowadays, we pay much attention to uniqueness of brands. What characteristic a certain brand has while others do not have can be the key factor in brand association. For example, Dove catches the concept of adding “one quarter moisturizing cream” into its soaps, which makes customers associate Dove with “never dry the skin”. This is what Dove wants to convey to customers, and also is its own specialty of products. Firms strengthen the relationship between the brand with a particular category, product attribute, customer benefit, or usage situation to build their brands (Farquhar and Herr, 1993).


I am unsure whether long-term brand association will directly lead to brand loyalty or not, but there are actually some researches have shown the link between brand association and brand loyalty. According to Gladden and Funk (2004)’s research on professional sport team brand, it was found that three of eight association dimensions were classified as significant predictors of brand loyalty, which including tradition, product delivery and star player. It demonstrated that in order to foster brand loyalty among sport fans, sport team should build association with customers from these three aspects. Therefore, we can believe that in other fields, firms may also use brand association as a tool to gain loyal customers.

The marketing strategy of Starbucks may be useful in making such long-term association. People may be used to having breakfast in Starbucks after some time. If they also happen to appreciate the brand and the taste, then they will be loyal to Starbucks.

Are you being tied to some certain brands now? : )



Farquhar P.H. and Herr P.M. (1993), “The Dual Structure of Brand Association”, Brand Equity and Advertising: Advertising’s Role in Building Strong Brands, pp.263-275

Gladden J.M. and Funk D.C. (2004), “Professional Sport: Examine the Link between Brand Association and Brand Loyalty”, The Business of Sports, pp.194-197

John D.R. et al. (2006), “A Methodology for Identifying Brand Association Networks”, Journal of Marketing Research, Vol. 43, No. 4 (Nov., 2006), pp. 549-563

6 thoughts on “Wake up and smell the pastry!

  1. That’s a very cunning idea from Starbucks. Like you say, I think what they are doing is trying to strengthen their brand associations with something that we (hopefully) do all the time! Adding the extra factor of the time ticking away maybe also serves to make the associations with mornings and (Starbucks) coffee more implicit and automatic because there is a double reward. Consumers get their coffee with a discount and can be pleased that they managed to beat the clock in order to get it. Routine is also another factor – since they are motivated to go to Starbucks everyday (or at least every morning they go for coffee), all other choices are effectively eliminated unless there is a particular reason to go elsewhere. Keller (1993) argues that the strength of a brand association is linked with how much a person thinks about the brand information presented to them. With this app, there is almost no need to think about it so you skip that process altogether. And we all know we do whatever is easiest!

  2. Interesting blog! I find it interesting how corporations are finding new ways to use technology in conjunction with psychology, in order to get people to buy. In terms of the Starbucks app, research by Dhar and Nowlis (1999) has found that if there are time constraints on the consumer, they are less likely to defer product choice. So you could argue that because the Starbucks app is presenting you with their product, as well as a time constraint, the consumer is less likely to choose another product, as this would effectively be unnecessary. This is very clever on Starbucks’ part, as they are not really the consumer the opportunity to choose another product.

  3. An interesting blog given the current and increasing climat of companies using a wide variety of reward schemes such as nectar points, or Cafe Nero’s free coffee card to name a couple. I have to say that I do not feel that Startbuck’s’ app will create a long term brand association alone. As research has shown the importance of motives to purchase, and not just the frequency of purchase (Amine, 2011). Amine’s research suggested that it is a combination of both frequency of purchase and motives, therefore I do feel that the app combined with Starbuck’s itself will help to create brand attachment and association for some people. Although I do feel its effects will be low as those with associations to starbuck’s would be likely to already go there, so without the app, many of the new customers would probaby be lost.

    I also wonder about the potential negative effects of the timer. For example, if someone specifically went to Starbuck’s for breakfast and was a few minutes late, they would not get a discount, but also may not have time to go elsewhere before work so would end up either spending the full amount for breakfast or having non at all. This is something which I feel would create negative associations to Starbuck’s and for this reason is actually a risky strategy for them to take on.

  4. Another cracking blog.

    I think the app that you discuss is pretty clever, in that its secondary aim could be loosely guided by habit formation: by encouraging you to wake up to grab a coffee they are surreptitiously, and rather nefariously might I add, linking the two in your morning routine. Never mind whether or not you are ‘loyal’ to Starbucks in the emotional sense of the word, so long as they remain convenient for you, they will be your vendor of choice when you wake up and HAVE to have your coffee.

    The wake up call cues need recognition and the app not only allows starbucks an immediate leg-up when accessing your consideration set, but also encourages you to become more engaged and involved with the brand, and less ‘swithed on’ when it comes to mindlessly going out to ritualistically pick up a cuppa.

  5. Hello, great blog you’ve written!
    The Starbucks application is something which is right up my street, and would definitely get me out of bed in the morning! If only there was a Starbucks in Bangor…
    Jamesuh, above, has made a good point. And the link you have made to brand associations is valuable; the convenience of Starbucks supply consumers with breakfast and coffee is perfect, half price is even better, and before the consumer knows it Starbucks will be part of their morning routine. Suddenly, BAAM! Starbucks are on to a winner. The application Starbucks have created not only boosts brand association and increases they custom to all day, but it also acts as a loyalty card. Loyalty cards have been proved to be effective (Pieris & Udunuwara, 2012). Lars Meyer-Waarden (2007) concluded that consumers are less likely to purchase from a store they do not have a loyalty card for. Why, you ask? Simply because consumers feel they are being short changed and feel that they will only receive their purchase. Crazy but true; I have a loyalty card for Café Nero but not for Costa. Therefore, Nero wins every time, purely because if I go there often enough, I’ll get a free coffee.

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    I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I’m not seeing very good success.
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