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.