How This Starbucks Poster Builds Loyalty 3 Ways

How Starbucks builds loyalty 3 different ways with one posterSaturday was a scorcher, here in Pasadena. Walking through Old Town, I popped into a Starbucks to rehydrate with one of those squashed little bottles of Pellegrino.

The lineup was looong. Everybody wanted their iced-whatever.

Anyway, while I waited, this clever, clever little number caught my eye:

Starbucks poster that reads 'our baristas take care of you. We're taking care of them.'

Our Baristas take
care of you.
We’re taking care
of them.

“We’re proud to announce an extraordinary opportunity to invest in our people. Eligible full- and part-time partners can now finish a bachelor’s degree with full tuition reimbursement through Arizona State University’s top-ranked degree programs, delivered online.

“To learn more, go to”

This poster—simple as it may seem—communicates a pair of strategic messages extremely well, and actually even a third contextual message thanks to its placement in the lineup queue.

Let’s break it down, shall we?

Message #1:

You’re doing good just by choosing Starbucks.

It’s the headline that really drives this one home. Most people will only read the headline, and this message will resonate with most people who read it.

You → cared for by Barista → cared for by → Starbucks

So feel good. We’re all taking care of each other.

How’s that for a little loyalty-building caramel drizzle on top of your mochaccino?

Also, note the headline’s line breaks. They aren’t haphazard. The key words ‘our’, ‘you’, ‘care’, and ‘we’ all start or end the lines.

Message #2:

If you work for us, we’ll help you get your education.

Anyone who reads that headline, and is potentially looking for work, will be naturally drawn to read the rest of the copy. And promoting this program in-store is all about employer brand-building:

“This isn’t a dead-end job.”

Note that the poster doesn’t call for anyone to submit their resume, or to apply for a job. It just shows how great it is to work at Starbucks. It’s the reader, depending on their own, personal situation, who self-selects the message they come away with.

Message #3:

Your wait in line is worth it.

This is that contextual message. It comes out only when you read the poster during your wait in line. That feel-good headline softens the natural annoyance that bubbles up in someone as they wait to get what they want.

Nobody likes waiting, so ‘wait design’ is an important component of great customer experience—and this poster is a clever little tactic. (Check out Donald Norman’s ridiculously awesome Living With Complexity for an insightful essay on designing waits).


So. One, superficially simple poster. Different messages, to different audiences, depending on where they are standing, in their day, in their life, or (literally) in the store.

A single written message can be an opportunity to communicate multiple meanings to different people. Context is king.

Anybody can use that to their advantage, if they’re willing to hunker down and figure out exactly how to say (write) it.


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