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Communication with substance.SM
Business Strategy Branding

Fueling My Addiction

Person with phone in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other hand

My coffee addiction isn’t entirely fueled by a need for caffeine …

I’m addicted to Starbucks. Not the coffee—although, I’m pretty fond of that too. I’m addicted to earning gold stars on the My Starbucks Rewards app. Occasionally I’ve found myself driving through for a coffee I didn’t really want, but thinking about the stars I’ll earn. When there is an incentive to earn extra stars—for buying a particular drink or loading money on your registered card (in my case Starbucks GOLD card, ahem)—I’ll do it. After you earn 12 stars you receive a free menu item of your choice. You’d think that was why I’m addicted to the program, but it’s not. In fact, I’ll often let my rewards pile up unused until they are in danger of expiring. What I’m really after are the increasingly better rewards, perks and special treatment I’m offered. The more I spend, the more enjoyable they make my Starbucks experience.

It’s similar to airline frequent flier or hotel loyalty programs. It’s not so much the free travel or hotel nights you receive that encourage you to stay active in the program, it’s the upgrades, special treatment and little extras. My husband travels every week for business and the perks of attaining Diamond level—a dedicated check-in line, suite upgrades when available, concierge level quiet and being called by name—in the Hyatt Gold Passport Club are just as addictive as those darn Starbucks stars. And when it comes to airlines, a bump up to a better available seat, priority boarding and lounge access are the things that make frequent flying tolerable, not necessarily the free flights.

So, what’s my point here? Well, it has something to do with that fact that people love being treated well even more than they like free stuff. Sometimes we focus too much on what we can give away, rather than simply making a customer more comfortable, satisfied or happier. Generally, it seems that people are OK with spending a fair amount to get a quality product or service, but what keeps them coming back is how that product or service makes them feel. Loyalty is earned with feelings, not free stuff. Now, who wants to make a Starbucks run with me?