Confrontational Marketing — Building Brand Awareness in a Saturated Market

Confrontational Marketing — Building Brand Awareness in a Saturated Market

Image by Thomas Hawk
Today as I was crossing the Embarcadero I noticed that this gentleman had left his coffee on the roof of his car. Midway through the cross walk I turned and pointed at him and he just waved at me. I ran back to the other side of the crosswalk and approached his window as he wasn’t getting what I was pointing at. When I got close enough to speak to him I told him that his coffee was on his roof. He looked at me and said, "I know, Happy Holiday’s from Starbucks!" At first I didn’t get it, it didn’t sink in, so I told him again, your coffee it’s on your roof and again he looked me square in they eye and said, "yes, yes, I know, Happy Holidays from Starbucks." It was at this point that I realized that the coffee cup was permanently affixed to his roof and that he was an advertisment in disguise. Even though I’m not sure how I feel about cars clogging traffic and poluting the City with exhaust to make a marketing point, I still had a chuckle when I realized that I’d been had.

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27 Responses to Confrontational Marketing — Building Brand Awareness in a Saturated Market

  1. Aaron23 says:

    And the guy probably has to use his own car and gas just like food delivery people.

  2. Jen SFO-BCN says:

    viral marketing. that’s pretty smart. i love that the guy looks like he is getting a kick out of the whole thing.

  3. Jen SFO-BCN says:

    and he looks like rick james.

  4. George_Washington says:


  5. Sbocaj says:

    How do you *see* this stuff??

  6. J R Webb says:

    Funny! When I was 4 years old, we were driving from the trailer park to the laundromat and people were pointing at us and trying to say something but my dad just told us to roll up the windows. When we got to the laundromat there was no laundry basket. My brother had left it on top of the car and somewhere along the mud road it fell off but not until half our undies were strewn all along the road. I think this is a BRILLIANT marketing idea and until today I never before wished I owned a laundromat. Your skill at being able to get this photo demonstrates your amazing talent.

  7. Bill in DC says:

    Well, that’s really low-key marketing, and just what you might expect from Starbucks (at least in SF). Now I’ll have to see if they do that in DC, where Starbucks has a HUGE presence. (It’s a Type-A kind of town.) Traffic is so clogged here that they’ll probably use pedestrians with Vente Lattes attached to their heads.

  8. mclgreenville / memorymotel says:

    that’s hilarious.

  9. vasta says:

    anyone have any crazy glue? i’ve got a cup to be affixing to the top of my go-kart.

  10. Mike Wood Photography says:

    that’s pretty clever. nice shot too. :)

  11. Aurora bore your ass off says:

    But only if the person driving has the personality that you want to do him/her a favor. I’ve seen some drivers that I would go up and knock the cup over, just to piss them off even more! If you didn’t take the time to do the driver a favor, would it really make an impact on you? I mean, I like the idea, but would you tell someone you saw a guy with a cup of coffee on his car roof? Or would you mention the brand?

  12. *lynne* says:

    Just read about this on – too funny, but also – SO CREATIVE!!

  13. Punsalan says:

    wouldn’t this actually conflict with starbucks branding? not a real sbux advertisement. inspiration probably came from the <a follow that red cup campaign.

  14. greta red says:

    this is kinda insidious, isn’t it? sbux preys on your desire to help someone out and you get had? 0401 is onto something. this seems off-brand to me too. but everyoen else loves it, so it’s just more evidence that i am no marketing genius.

  15. J R Webb says:

    0401: thanks for the link I prefer Peets anyway, no matter what Starsucks comes up with. So even though I admire the campaign, if that’s what’s happening, I intensely dislike the product.

  16. jennconspiracy says:

    Wow. That’s pretty amazing. I wonder exactly WHAT you are supposed to think when you see that? Is this guy just supposed to drive around, smile and wave and say "Happy Holidays from Starbucks"? Eeesh. Agree with JRWebb – Peets is better.

  17. davidtrent says:

    Even better is that you took a photo and started a lovely viral thread on it. I fancy a coffee…

  18. nickiroxx says:

    i doubt they’re actually "out to get" anyone. from what i’ve heard they actually give you a reward when you tell them they forgot their starbucks. i’m sure they’re bombarded all day long – sounds pretty interesting to me!

  19. ThatBeeGirl says:

    One can hope that this kind of marketing "only happens once a year," much like the iconic red cups.

  20. moldy_cheese1123 says:

    wow. thats pretty funny. Getting that cup off your roof would be a real pain in the butt, though.

  21. moldy_cheese1123 says:

    look. A lot of you people have noted that this so-called "insidious" advertisment is [insert random comment from above here]. All it is is a clever little ad campaign thats designed to make you laugh. Thats all. No evil "conspiracies".

  22. msjacoby says:

    That’s funny cause I saw a baby carrier on top of someone’s car, and when I ran up to the window, they handed my a National Right to Life Committee pamphlet. Bastards.

  23. peppermint.patty says:

    i dont think they could pay me enough to put up with people telling me ‘there’s a coffee on your roof’ all day long … well, then again, its starbucks, maybe they could

  24. SF Fred says:

    Oh, you fooled me. How else will you defraud me? Gosh I want to buy your product. Screw Starbucks.

  25. Bill in DC says:

    Fascinating comment thread. A quirky (and not very important) marketing idea becomes a megolithic corporate conspiracy to dominate the world. Proof that nothing breeds resentment like success — which means that Thomas, as one of Flickr’s most successful photographers — should be anticipating barbs at any minute. Here’s the bottom line: – Cute marketing idea, – The photo worked because Thomas and the driver interacted. – Peets IS better, but that helps only if you live in the Bay Area. We have Peets flown in for home, but it’s Starbucks or Caribou if you want an espresso in this area.

  26. benliong says:

    i think the character’s attitude deinitely helps. I love it when Thomas said that guy seems to be getting a kick out of doing this. Would you be more or less inclined to buy coffee from starbucks because of this? it doesn’t matter. Starbucks suddenly appear more friendly as a brand

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