Starbucks cat paw cup triggers violent craze in China


The company launched this week in China a limited edition of "Cat Paw Cup", a double-walled cup with an interior shaped cat's paw. When a drink is poured into it, the shape of the paw becomes apparent.

Customers went gaga for the original products. An unspecified number of them went on sale Tuesday, priced at 199 yuan each ($ 30). They sold in less than a day. Videos of people fighting in Starbucks stores to put one on the market appeared.
Cute cups have become such a hot property that Chinese netizens and official media have begun to suggest that Starbucks (SBUX) was trying to artificially stimulate demand. In an article published on social media, the company denied the charges and announced that it would sell all remaining cuts at a single online sale on Friday.

The episode shows the difficulties that brands face when they are trying to generate buzz with a marketing hit.

"This is a great example of the dark side of viral marketing," said Benjamin Cavender, an analyst at China Market Research Group based in Shanghai. On the benefits side, he said, the frenzy around the goblets shows a keen interest in the brand "and a willingness of consumers to show up in Starbucks stores, money in their pocket".

Starbucks sold the limited edition cat paw cups at around $ 30 each. Chinese customers could not get enough.
Starbucks has launched limited edition products in key markets around the world for years. Strong demand has also left disappointed customers in other markets, most recently in the United States with the release of limited edition red cups during last year's holiday season.

It was unclear what had driven some Chinese customers beyond cat goblets, apart from the fact that they were cute and rare.

China is the second largest market of Starbucks after the United States. The company wants to open thousands of additional stores around the world. country in the coming years and is trying to resist the fierce competition of the local start-up Luckin Coffee, which has grown rapidly by responding to the enthusiasm of Chinese consumers for orders via their smartphones.

Sold out in less than one second

Starbucks has strengthened its digital presence. She opened a virtual Starbucks store in China in December in partnership with the e-commerce giant. Ali Baba (Baba). Customers can order coffee for home delivery, purchase merchandise and gift vouchers to their friends on one platform.

After the craze for cutting cats this week, Starbucks announced on Wednesday that it would sell another 1,000 in its online store every afternoon from Thursday to Sunday.

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The company has recognized the hype surrounding the goblets and has opted for an "exclusive game" between its physical stores and its online stores, said Andrew Atkinson, an analyst at the China Skinny research firm based in Shanghai.

But the first batch of 1,000 cups is sold in less than a tenth of a second, said an Alibaba spokesperson to Chinese media. This has fueled accusations of "hunger marketing", a term used in China that deliberately refers to the limitation of the supply of a product in order to significantly increase the demand.

Starbucks insisted that the marketing plans for the cat's mug did not differ from those of its previous limited edition products. The company announced that it would sell the remaining 3,000 cups online in one go on Friday afternoon.

They sold in less than a second.

"There is a lesson here," said Cavender. "Companies selling limited-edition products and having a presence in e-commerce in China must be able to adapt very, very quickly to consumer demand … otherwise, they can quickly drive up consumer anger. . "

Serenitie Wang contributed to this report.

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