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Starbucks SA – A Lesson In FOMO, Branding And Social Media

Starbucks made its official debut in South Africa today after a sensational social media build-up. Rosebank, Johannesburg has been deemed the first worthy host for the internationally acclaimed coffee shop, attracting thousands of Jozi-based South Africans to their outlet for a taste of the much-talked about coffee. This store is the first of a planned 150 – 200 Starbucks coffee shops that are set to sweep across the nation over the next few years, and it definitely got South Africans talking.

As a coffee lover (I’d like to consider myself a bit of a coffee connoisseur) I honestly found myself shaking my head in disbelief at the throngs of people queuing up for their frappuccinos and cappuccinos, but I also realise that it’s simply a matter of personal taste. Me personally? I would rather have a cup of our locally available Seattle Coffee Co, vida e caffé or even a homely, yet satisfying Mugg & Bean coffee. Starbucks tastes like sand. Sorry, Starbucks. You’re clearly not for everyone, but let’s also remember that this is simply my opinion. Add caramel sauce, whipped cream and yes, you’ve got me hooked (I do enjoy me a Caramel Frappuccino)… but the straight up coffee just never grabbed me. And yet from midnight last night, people were queuing outside Starbucks to hand over their rands for what I call an average cup of coffee. Prices are pretty much aligned with other local coffee shops, but is it even the coffee they are there for?

What is it about Starbucks that has everyone so whipped? Why would people subject themselves to the cold and rain to wait ages for their morning cuppa?

I’ve put it down three things:

  • FOMO
  • Branding
  • Social media excellence


While I’ve been fortunate enough to travel, many South Africans haven’t. Many have not yet had the opportunity to experience the much talked about Starbucks that is splashed all over social media, the world-wide web, and sitting comfortably in the hands of their favourite celebrities. South Africa knew about Starbucks long before she sailed to our shores, and now we can all get a taste of her magical beverages. FOMO is real, and when it comes to “the latest thing” and the unveiling of something new, people want to be a part of the parade. Think H&M and Burger King. Same same… there will always be those in the crowd who simply must add “attended grand opening of Starbucks” to their list of accomplishments.


The fact that Starbucks has resonated with so many South Africans long before it even arrives in our country is a testament to exceptional branding. We all know the lady with her locks, the familiar green of their logo, everything about the tall, grande and venti drinks down to what a Starbucks shop looks like. You have to give them credit where credit is due, Starbucks have a solid brand that has stuck, even with people who have never had a personal encounter with their product. They sell an entire experience that is all about me-time, enjoying a cup of coffee and making new friends – #MeetMeAtStarbucks! Kind of makes you think about “The Central Perk” in an episode of Friends, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that came up during their initial briefing when creating the brand.

Social Media Excellence

The hype that has been created on social media is staggering. From the build-up to the grand opening, the Starbucks SA accounts have been firing on all cylinders, keeping fans engaged, inviting them for coffee and making sure this event stays top of mind. Twitter was ablaze this morning, with the hashtags #StarbucksSA and #StarbucksSouthAfrica accumulating innumerable mentions. But for each and every tweet, mention and hashtag that went out into the Twitterverse, a Like, retweet or comment came back from @Starbucks_SA; responded with enthusiasm and excitement. If you ignore the hilarious, dry and critical tweets from the anti-Starbucks contingent (I have to say that these kept me thoroughly entertained while drinking my morning cup of Seattle Coffee *wink*) you would’ve found that people are so genuinely over the moon that Starbucks is now a firm feature on South African soil.

Yes, they can piggy-back off an already established international brand, no, they might not be the best in coffee available to Johannesburg, but you have to hand it to them, Starbucks have won (most of) our city for the day! Deservedly so – from a marketing perspective, that is! 😉

Featured image from the Starbucks SA Twitter account.

Katherine StottStarbucks SA – A Lesson In FOMO, Branding And Social Media