More than half a year after Starbucks announced its entry into the instant coffee market, Starbucks is launching its first major ad campaign for Via. From today until Monday, the 30-second TV spot invites you to one of its 7,500 locations in the U.S. and Canada to "take the taste challenge" and see if you can tell Via from Starbucks’ fresh brewed coffee. Additional incentives include a coupons for a free coffee on your next visit and $1 off your purchase of Via.
The taste test idea came partly from the results of ads in its first test market, Chicago, where people noticed the product but weren’t checking them out in stores. Besides Starbucks cafes, Via will be available in other retailers like Office Depot, Barnes & Noble Cafes and REI, and will be in major grocery stores next year.
Back in February, our own stable of coffee aficionados participated in a blind taste test. Our testers found that Via wasn’t just undistinguishable from Starbucks original brew: It was better.
But what if java lovers find this weekend that the instant coffee tastes exactly like Starbucks’ fresh brew—or even better? While Starbucks intends for the powdery version to serve an extra audience like travelers and campers, what’s preventing it from becoming a replacement, if it really tastes the same. For less than $1 a cup (a 3-pack retails for $2.95 and a 12-pack for $9.95), the penny pinchers might skip out on waiting in line for their morning cup of joe.