Campaigns, Student/PR

2019’s Creative Campaigns #17 – Free Coffees For Absolutely EVERYBODY!

Everyone loves a freebie, gee it doesn’t take a genius to know that. But normally, you can only pick up something for free if you offer a brand something in exchange. I.e. you sign up to their mailing list, you download their app, you’re a brand new customer, and so on. You get the gist.

But, in perhaps one of the boldest marketing moves of the year, Costa Coffee decided today “screw the system”, they were going to be handing out their products for free, Oprah Winfrey style, to absolutely anybody and everybody.

YOU get a coffee, and YOU get a coffee…

What’s the catch? There literally isn’t one.

Costa Coffee – Saving The Nation One Cup At A Time

Speaking of his spontaneous idea (which, FYI, I’m totally here for as you’ll find out soon) Scott Martin who’s the Managing Director of Costa Express, said: 

“The coffee industry is booming with no sign of our love affair with the drink slowing, as it’s estimated 95 million cups are consumed a day.”

He then goes on to express that unfortunately, there’s a really negative stereotype around self-serve coffee machines. That their milk is stale, the coffee beans are poor quality… You get the idea.

“We at Costa Express don’t believe this is acceptable and have worked tirelessly to revolutionise the self-serve experience.” Martin continues.

“Our machines serve the same fresh signature Mocha Italia coffee beans and fresh semi-skimmed milk you would expect in our Costa Coffee stores, so the quality of your experience is never compromised.”

“We’re so confident that once you’ve tried a cup from Costa Express that it’ll fast become a regular part of your routine, so for one day only, we’re giving away a free drink to all.”

Of course, I had to make sure that this national act of generosity wasn’t just a hoax, so I headed to the nearest Costa Express machine to my work this morning to grab my own free cook (you know, for research). Even at 8:30am, there was an abundance of people waiting for their hot drinks. Clearly, the word had spread far and wide, and across various genders too.

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Much to my happiness, absolutely everything on the machine was free (which gives me every excuse to drink a large caramel hot chocolate at half 8 in the morning, right?). You didn’t have to scan an app, check the cup out. Nothing. You literally just chose your drink and walked out the door.

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Just to make sure my product testing was super rigid, my colleague Rebecca and I had to back at lunch too.

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You know, just to make sure.

“But Won’t They Lose Loads Of Money?”

I think the question on a lot of people’s minds, and especially of those with no interest in marketing who might just look at this very matter-of-factly, is: how much is Costa going to lose at the hands of giving out free coffees all day?! And I mean, despite them probably having quite a high product mark up cost, they are likely going to lose thousands of pounds worth of revenue today. That much is true.

But their returns? Will probably blow this figure right out of the park in my opinion.

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I mean, remember when a Starbucks cup was infamously left in view during a Game Of Thrones scene? The estimated returns from the exposure of that one cup was around £2billion (if you buy into AVE). It was estimated around 19.3 million people would have tuned in to this episode and would have been exposed to the brand, which is a lot. But let’s think about how many will be exposed to Costa’s stunt today in comparison.

“Freecoffeegate” has been spoken about in just about every media publication. Nationals, regionals, consumer press, even business press. The reach alone from coverage is ridiculous. That’s not to mention the posts on social media too, individuals and organisations alike spreading the word – this will have a tremendous viewership as well. And then you have the afterthought advertising too. People sharing their free costa pics on social media, channelling the brand name far and wide.

Also, search trends don’t lie.

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If Scott Martin’s contentions are right, and those who’ve picked up a free Costa today will be back for more, their profits are set to be absolutely outstanding. I can’t wait to see what pans out from this as this is one of my favourite marketing moves, perhaps of all time.

This move was a stroke of genius from Costa coffee. No doubt about that.

Their timing couldn’t have been better. This morning and pretty much most of the day was a total washout, so there’s no surprise that queues at the Express machines were miles long today as we all waited for our dose of warm, hearty goodness, courtesy of Costa themselves. Plus, the move is so bold, and so appealing to so many people, that it’s no surprise it’s been a hit in the media and for the public.

If you want your communications campaigns to be a hit, then you have to take risks. This campaign examples that perfectly and I don’t doubt they’ll reap benefits as a result. What do you think? And, more importantly, did you pick up your free Costa Coffee today? Let me know on Twitter.




7 thoughts on “2019’s Creative Campaigns #17 – Free Coffees For Absolutely EVERYBODY!”

  1. For me, this was a huge mis step from Costa. People posting photos of their single use cup, transported, used once and wasted at “no cost”. There is a cost for single use cups, and it’s to the environment. A far better tactic would have been free coffee, but only if your brought your own cup. Otherwise, make people pay for the damage they are doing to the environment.


    1. A few people have said this, I think it wouldn’t have had the publicity impact if you’d have had to bring your own cup as many people wouldn’t have bothered (that’s the sad way things are). I do see your point though, and it would have made a great environmental point too!


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