Customer-Consumer brand co-creation: Starbucks’ concept of “prosumer”

By Anaëlle DANICAN

Nowadays, customers-consumers are increasingly involved in the product lifecycle. There is now a shift from being only a consumer, the person consuming the product, to being a “prosumer”, the person producing and consuming the product at the same time.

Indeed, consumers have more and more influence than before on products’ success or failure onto the market. With the rise of social media impact, customers and consumers are able to share freely their experiences and opinions about a product or service, thus affecting the related brand image and reputation, in a positive or a negative way1.

Consequently, we could say that a brand is not in total control of its image and reputation. Customers and consumers are. Brands have the choice to work with or against their consumers. However, some brands are surfing on this trend of “prosumerism” to bring value to their brand, and Starbucks is one of them.

In fact, Starbucks’s strategy is to use its customers, that are also its consumers, to co-create the brand image and the brand reputation. Starbucks’ customers are actively being “prosumers”, consuming and at the same time producing the brand. Indeed, consumers are at the center of Starbucks’ communication and advertising strategy, by having the majority of the brand voice. That is why Starbucks focuses so much on the customer experience in their coffee shops all around the world.

At Starbucks, the customer is part of the décor, of the servicescape environment. There is no better add for Starbucks that its own customers (consumers) staying at the coffee shops, working or reading in front of an Apple MacBook and a cup of coffee. For some customers, this is even a sign of social success.


(Extracted from

Furthermore, who is better than customers to showcase Starbucks mermaid’s logo in cities all around the world, through their cups of coffee, or to spread positive word-of-mouth? No one. Even in series or movies such as Sex and the City or The Devil wears Prada2, where Starbucks is doing product placements, the scenes are still showcasing the consumer with the cups of coffee. This is a win-win move because it is a publicity for the brand and a way for the customers to show that they are part of the Starbucks’ universe, that they can afford it. This is one of the reasons why Starbucks is considered as an “affordable luxury”3.


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On another hand, all the content created by Starbucks is made by the community of consumers. Together, they gather and form the Starbucks brand community. This Starbucks brand community is very active on social media, like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, Youtube, and Snapchat… Indeed, Starbucks has nearly 37 million followers on Facebook, 17 million on Instagram, 11.6 million on Twitter, 4.8 million on Google+, 3.7 million on Pinterest, and 192 thousand on Youtube. (Data were taken on these specific websites: see the captures below).  

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On social media, the community members often share pictures and videos of their Starbucks experience with a lot of hashtags.

To benefit from this habit, Starbucks has also launched a campaign on Snapchat, encouraging consumers to take photos of them (with Starbucks filter) while drinking a Starbucks coffee with their friends. This campaign has generated a lot of content and has been a success4.

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(Captured from source 4 )

To further explain this idea of Starbucks surfing on the co-creation and “prosumerism” trends, there is the website


(Captured from

Indeed, this website is like a crowdsourcing tool made for customers, that benefits the brand. Customers and consumers can provide any amelioration point they can think of on this collaborative platform. Any idea is supposed to be analyzed and taken into consideration by Starbucks in order to further improve the customer experiences. It is also a means for consumers (alias prosumers) to even more personalize the interactions that they have with the brand.


To this end, co-creation is a very good strategy for companies. It means that the company is customer-oriented, it can improve the relationships with customers and also bring about a lot of innovations. Co-creation is also a way for consumers to interact between them, though brand community platforms. Because it enhances the customer experience and creates value for them, customers engage more with the brands, thus upgrading the brand image and the brand reputation.










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