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Starbucks Loyalty is Tapping into Fundamental Human Behaviors: Our Love of Collecting

starbucks loyalty odyssey

The Starbucks Odyssey beta loyalty program features powerful consumer marketing concepts, including our primal need to collect and share. What makes Odyssey different from other loyalty apps? It’s using Web3 as a force-multiplier. 

A long-time champion for brand collectibles, Starbucks built on their fan’s love of limited-edition merch like special “Been There Series” ceramic mugs, by now offering valuable limited-edition digital NFT rewards like The Siren Collection, plus exciting real-world brand experiences, like a trip to a Costa Rican coffee farm. By using Web3 features on the Polygon platform, they’ve uncovered a loyalty program that resonates with their fans on multiple levels. Starbucks Odyssey (still in beta) taps into their customer habits and offers rewards that feel more personalized and valuable than anything they’ve offered before.


Collecting is a fundamental aspect of humanity

Collecting is a deeply ingrained human behavior. It's fascinating, isn't it? Everyone collects... something! This instinct spans from the earliest days of human history (think collecting resources for survival) to modern hobbies like guitar pedal collecting (guilty!), collecting those  or accumulating followers on social media -- btw, you should follow Popcorn! ;-)


Here's why collecting is a goldmine for marketing strategies:
  1. Psychological Reward: Collecting triggers a sense of achievement. Each addition to a collection brings a dopamine hit, a feeling of satisfaction. It's why loyalty programs with a collecting element can be so effective.

  2. Community Building: Collections often foster communities. Think about how fans of certain sports teams collect memorabilia, or how Nike sneaker-heads gather around the latest releases. These communities are hotbeds for brand engagement and advocacy. And just like secondary markets for collectibles like Reverb for guitars, StockX for sneakers, and Etsy for grandma's Hummel figures, Starbucks Odyssey's "The Siren Collection" is on the OpenSea's secondary NFT market

  3. Identity Expression: Collections often become part of a person's identity -- if you've seen mine (music) or my business partner (Marvel), Beck's, office space you know what we mean when we say #noblur.  A person's collection is a way to express interests, affiliations, and values. Brands that tap into this can create a deep emotional connection with their audience.  

  4. The Chase: The pursuit, or the 'chase,' of collecting can be as rewarding as the collection itself. This is why 'limited edition' or 'exclusive' offers work so well; they create a sense of urgency and exclusivity. Scarcity cannot be undervalued. Limiting supply, whether intentionally or accidentally, can create a fervor among fans, pushing them to assign great value and significance to what are (usually) ordinary items. For brands and marketers, understanding this psychology is a powerful tool in shaping consumer behavior and driving engagement.

Incorporating "gamification" collecting aspects into a loyalty marketing strategy can create powerful engagement.

The most successful collection-based strategies are those that align with the brand's purpose and resonate with its audience's values and lifestyle. In Starbucks case, it always comes back to their values.

It's not just about collecting things; it's about collecting experiences and stories that align with your identity.


Example: Starbucks Odyssey Loyalty Program and Collecting Journey Stamps

OK let's talk about Starbucks Odyssey.

Throughout its year-plus-long beta journey, Starbucks Odyssey has captivated audiences and expanded its user base impressively. Yet, as the spotlight shines on this innovative loyalty program, lingering questions about user retention hover in the background.

Starbucks, with a masterful touch, is weaving brand narratives and crafting products that strike a chord with the younger, digital-native crowd.

This Gen Z demographic, inherently open to exploring new frontiers and embracing technological advancements, could find Starbucks Odyssey an irresistible draw, especially as the program continues to unfold and adapt.

The brand’s strategic shift towards appealing to this youthful audience is further underscored by its focus on cold beverage options, which now represent a whopping 75% of its sales.

These moves mirror a larger shift in consumer preferences, highlighted by the fact that 60% of Starbucks' beverages were customized in the third quarter of 2023 alone. This trend not only showcases a growing desire for personalized experiences but also points to the importance of shareability in the age of social media.

Through these deliberate strategies, Starbucks is not just keeping pace but setting the pace in the ever-evolving landscape of consumer habits, reinforcing its status as a beacon of innovation.

We are fascinated about the company's evolution of an already successful loyalty program (31.4 million existing members!) and improving it with a Web3 twist. Here's how:

  1. Collecting Mechanism: Starbucks Odyssey has users earning "Journey Stamps" (NFTs) through various activities. The program taps into the human instinct to collect and the joy of accumulating rewards.

  2. Engagement Beyond the Product: Starbucks Odyssey goes beyond just buying coffee; it involves interactive experiences like virtual tours and trivia, deepening the customer's relationship with all things "coffee" and the brand.

  3. Exclusivity and Rarity: In Starbucks Odyssey, certain rewards are more coveted due to their rarity and are offered as limited-edition NFT stamps, like those of the Siren series pictured. This rarity creates a sense of exclusivity and desirability, driving further engagement.

  4. Leveraging New Technologies: Starbucks Odyssey embraces the digital age with NFTs on the Polygon blockchain. This not only aligns with modern technological trends but also resonates with Starbucks' commitment to sustainability, as Polygon's blockchain is more energy-efficient.

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  5. Experiential Rewards: Rewards offered go beyond the physical. Starbucks offers branded merchandise and offers unique experiences like espresso martini-making classes or trips to coffee farms. These experiences create long-lasting memories and strengthen brand loyalty to super-fandom.

  6. Gamification: Starbucks Odyssey has a game-like feel in collecting points, which is very different from it's 'normal' mobile app. It uses gamification through its interactive journeys, requiring users to sometimes jump through fairly elaborate hoops to gain stamps. This approach enhances user engagement and enjoyment for a lot of people.

  7. FOMO and Community Building: The program creates a sense of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). In Starbucks Odyssey, this is evident in the time-limited nature of NFT drops and exclusive rewards, encouraging continuous engagement and fostering a community of collectors.

Been thereOf course, Starbucks is no noob at the gamification and collecting game.  Personally, I've been collecting their "Been There" Series coffee mugs for the better part of a decade.  I think we have close to 20 or more mugs our family has collected from around the world -- London, Paris, Madrid, Montreal, New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and on, and on.  And, all of these mugs actually rise in value over time on secondary markets like eBay and Etsy! Some of which go for hundreds and entire collections for thousands of dollars.

Wrapping this up, Starbucks Odyssey is a modern, digital, and environmentally-conscious version of a loyalty program that mirrors the successful aspects of our innate addiction to collecting. It's a great example of how traditional marketing concepts can be updated and transformed to fit the current technological and cultural landscape, appealing to both new and existing customers in unique and engaging ways.

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