Unicorn Frappuccino mania: Starbucks aims at Instagram
If it feels like your social media feeds have been doused with pink and blue syrup, you’re not alone.
The Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino, a sickly-sweet limited-edition drink released this week and this week only, has been a viral hit. Search #unicornfrappuccino on Instagram and you’ll be met with more than 100,000 images – and those are just the photos which have been hashtagged.
The drink isn’t even available in the UK – but it feels like it’s everywhere. Locations across the US and Canada were selling out on the first day it was available, such was the demand.
NOT SO MAGICAL: A Starbucks barista’s rant about the new Unicorn Frappuccino goes viral. pic.twitter.com/M5DungV8RH
April 21, 2017 ABC World News Now
One barista even posted a video pleading with customers not to order it, because it’s so difficult to make when ordered by customer after customer.
“If you love us as baristas, don’t order it,” said Braden Burson in a now-deleted video. “For the love of God and everything that is good, don’t get the Unicorn Frappuccino.”
The beauty of releasing twee, social media-friendly products is that the marketing is done for you already. Customers will post visually appealing selfies and coffee pics for days, YouTubers will make video reviews and news organisations (hi) will write about it.
“The brain processes visuals faster than text – marketing and PR people all know this,” said Preena Gadher, co-founder and managing director at Riot Communications. “Create something that is visually stunning: it’s much more marketable and shareable. When it looks good enough to share, you’re getting your customers to do the marketing for you.”
The drink itself, while pretty, has had mixed reviews. The sugar content is ridiculous – 59g in all. And not everyone was enamoured of the taste:
this tastes like orange trident gum and hot dog water dont waste your money on it!! #unicornfrappuccino pic.twitter.com/f6sNuyuSRj
April 19, 2017 Gabrielle
Reviewing it for Newsweek, Chris Riotta wrote: “To be clear, this is the worst drink I have ever purchased in my life. That is not an understatement, either: the Starbucks Unicorn tastes like a combination of the topical fluoride used by dental hygienists and metallic sludge.”
Not that this will hurt Starbucks. “People all over the world are talking about it,” said Gadher. “The drink itself undermines it. In an ideal world it would look good and taste great – but whether Starbucks cares is another matter. The fact people are having that debate is worth a lot of money.”
Starbucks have been pretty open that the unicorn drink was inspired by social media. A Starbucks spokesperson said: “The look of the beverage was an important part of its creation, our inspiration came from the fun, spirited and colourful unicorn-themed food and drinks that have been trending in social media.”
As for whether the whole thing was actually Instagram-bait? They were a little more circumspect. But it’s a safe bet this had an influence.
Last year a “secret menu” drink called the pink drink, a mix of Starbucks Strawberry Acai Refresher with coconut milk, took over Instagram feeds. This month, they added it to their official menu.