Comparing Consumer Behavior & Product Marketing Strategy: Case Study

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

How do you prefer your coffee? Are you a grab-and-go drinker heading off to a soccer game or do you prefer to sit and relax with your favorite cup? In this lesson, you'll learn about coffee chains reaching both types.

Coffee's On

They are two of the most well-known and recognized coffee giants in the industry today, pitting one brand's West Coast elite feel against a predominantly East Coast soccer mom customer. We're talking about the marketing war between Starbucks and its famous siren logo, and the everyday coffee drinker approach taken by Dunkin' Donuts.

Differing Marketing Strategies

The way in which Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts both position themselves, as well as reach out to their audiences, is vastly different. Let's look at one first and then the other.

Dunkin' Donuts positions itself as an 'average Joe' brand with a logo and personality that is friendly and down-to-earth, including their previous slogan used for a decade, 'America Runs on Dunkin',' that is accessible to regular people. Their new platform, 'Keep On,' is designed to encourage a more emotional connection to its customers, with the concepts of positive energy and perseverance.


When Dunkin' Donuts made a push toward competing head-on with Starbucks, they did so by introducing a commercial poking fun at Starbucks' lofty menu language, dubbing it 'Fritalian.' Since then, they have partnered with a variety of celebrities and actors in a bid to position themselves as a part of its customers' daily routines. Through their more traditional marketing efforts, Dunkin Donuts tries to appear simple, down-to-earth and not driven by status. It is a blue-collar type approach that highlights serving the American people day after day. Their social media and digital strategies are evolving to encourage more interaction with consumers.

Starbucks promotes itself as a whole coffee experience, with a more upscale flare and high-end beverage and menu language. They are known the world over for their products and service, but also their store atmosphere and brand voice, which focuses on a home-like experience with soothing music and a place to hang out. Starbucks places great priority on word-of-mouth marketing, shying away from more traditional forms of marketing, and works to create relationships with customers through their in-store interactions and experiences.


Starbucks is much more focused on positioning themselves in terms of quality and image rather than price, believing customers will pay premium pricing to feel like they are a part of the Starbucks culture. When they present a special offer, they do so in a more understated way that lends itself to customers feeling like part of a secret society with access to promotions not widely available.

They have partnered in marketing with other high-profile companies, including Apple and Google, and continuing their push as a lifestyle brand and experience.

Marketing Impact on Consumers

Both brands appeal to consumers in differing behavioral ways. All consumers process buying decisions differently, but are generally impacted by personal factors such as age or race; psychological factors including motivations and perceptions; and social factors such as the opinions of others or cultural influences. Consumer buying behaviors can be classified in the following ways:

1. Routine: Low-cost, low-involvement items purchased regularly; consumers typically make automatic decisions based on previous experiences.

2. Impulse: This includes no conscious planning, such as small items at a checkout line.

3. Limited decision making: Consumers may take a look at a couple options, but don't invest a lot of time or energy in making a choice.

4. Extensive decision making: Typically seen in higher-priced purchases, this behavior requires a substantial amount of time and research in purchasing decisions.

For both chains, we can safely assume there's not a ton of research and analysis going into making a buying decision, so each company must appeal to a consumer's personal, psychological or social inklings.

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