The Case of the Unicorn Frappuccino: How Starbucks Leaves Marketing to Its Customers

Curator Intern Blog Series

By Lauren Macalalad, PR Intern

I am an avid coffee drinker, born and raised in Seattle, making me no stranger to Starbucks and its continuously growing list of unique and delicious, caffeinated beverages. Just last week, the company debuted a new specialty drink, the Unicorn Frappuccino, which has now become notorious for its seemingly magical appearance and disappointing flavor. Regardless of its flavor, Starbucks tasted success in detecting an emerging social media trend and strategically merging it with their brand.

In a news release posted to the Starbucks website, the company mentioned that it aimed to take the social media unicorn craze to the next level, hence the creation of the quirky new beverage that clearly embodied the trend. Reflecting on the success of the specialty drink in an interview with CNBC, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson emphasized that the Unicorn Frappuccino received a “phenomenal organic, social response.” Not only did the new Frappuccino create buzz for the household coffee company, but it also helped to generate excitement for Starbucks’ much-anticipated, seasonal Frappuccino happy hour promotion.

I first saw a post of the Unicorn Frappuccino on my Instagram feed on April 19, the day it was released. Starbucks’ strategic maneuver to attract social media users with their trendy drink’s aesthetic – perfect for visual platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat – makes marketing a little easier, especially with social media features such as hashtags, which can be deliberately used to optimize searches and content accessibility.

Curious about Starbucks’ images on Instagram, I decided to do a quick search. I found that as of April 26 at 3 p.m., 27.5 million Instagram posts contained the hashtag #Starbucks and 155,000 posts used the hashtag #unicornfrappuccino. That number does not count posts with similar hashtags such as #unicornfrap, #unicornfrappe, or others derived from the drink’s name or those that were misspelled. The Unicorn Frappuccino’s noteworthy presence on Instagram garnered robust attention for Starbucks, as well as allowed the company to take the reins of the magical craze and launch the unicorn trend within the food and beverage industry.

Looking at Starbucks and its Unicorn Frappuccino as a prime example, other companies can increase brand awareness and brand success through strategic planning around social media trends. One of the greatest things social media affords companies is increased and supplementary marketing generated by its customers. By utilizing social media as a medium for user-produced publicity, Starbucks and other brands are changing the way marketing can be transferred from the company itself to the customers it serves. Starbucks’ latest endeavor proved there’s great return from leveraging current social media trends to gain free marketing from customers, further acknowledging the importance of maintaining an online presence and staying relevant on social channels.

This blog was written at a part of Curator’s Intern Blog Series. The author, Lauren Macalalad, is a senior at the University of Washington studying communication, Spanish and diversity. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.


Long gone are the days where we only have media to turn to for information and trends. We can now also follow social influencers, bloggers and online-only publications to keep up with day-to-day happenings, allowing people to get information where they choose, according to their interests and preferences. This expansion also allows PR professionals to be creative in how we reach audiences.

So with no further adieu, we’re excited to share a new series of conversations with those on the front lines of the growing media landscape. These thoughtful conversations will focus on the changing way news is shared and how brands work with media within this new context.

This spring, we will host Portia Smith of Obsessed by Portia, Jess Estrada of Fresh Jess, Avi Soor and Antonio Smith of #SeattleGents, Coral Garnick, retail reporter at Puget Sound Business Journal, and Anika Anand, co-founder of The Evergrey. After each session, we’ll post blogs sharing the conversation highlights.

Get pumped and check back soon – our first two sessions are this week with Portia and Seattle Gents co-founders!

Curator Newsfeed: April 21, 2017

The sun is out and so is the latest coverage on our lovely clients! The weather that Seattle is giving us today definitely screams FRIDAY! But before you go out chasing the sun, let’s talk Earth Day.

As Earth Day is tomorrow, it’s always a good idea to stop and reflect on how we are impacting the environment and what we can do to reduce our carbon footprint and mitigate the negative environmental impacts that result from everyday actions. We can start by thinking about the clothing we wear. Today, Forbes highlighted our client Ably and their technologically-advanced, eco-friendly apparel that aims to combat environmental pollution and climate change.

Also along the lines of Earth Day, check out Garden Center Magazine’s article on how our client Whole Kids Foundation is partnering with schools to save the bees. Learn about these stories and more, below!

Client Coverage:

Ably Sustainable Clothing Dresses Down Global Warming, Forbes

10 luxury playhouses that don't skimp on style, Curbed San Francisco


Pyramid Brewing Co. Reveals Rebranded Packages, Brewbound

Whole Kids Foundation funds 50 new school beehives, Garden Center Magazine

How Snapchat is Taking Elevator Pitches to the Next Level

Curator Intern Blog Series

By Lauren Macalalad, PR Intern

Last week, McDonald’s in Australia turned to Snapchat for help in seeking Millennials who have the potential to become a part of the company’s workforce. The company implemented what it likes to call “Snaplications,” which is its new way to seek out young individuals (Snapchat’s target audience) who are looking to begin a career with the $110 billion company. All the applicant has to do is swipe left for the McDonald’s filter, which dresses the user in a McDonald’s uniform, including a black hat and nametag. The applicant then has ten seconds to deliver their best elevator pitch, all while being professional, confident and full of personality. Once the applicant sends their snap to the McDonald’s Australia account, the company will reply with a link to where the candidate will find the rest of the application.

Snaplications are a great way for companies to get a sense of prospective employee’s personalities and could potentially save them time when deciding on whether to invite candidates for an in-person interview. The way a person sells themselves in 10 seconds or less says a lot about planning, preparation and effective execution. Would a company be able to hire someone solely from watching a 10-second video elevator pitch? Probably not. But, those 10 seconds are definitely a good indicator for the type of personality and overall essence a potential candidate may bring to a team.

McDonald’s intentions were to access a larger pool of young individuals, and, with that in mind, a similar feature could serve the LinkedIn community well, too. A short video feature on individuals’ profiles could definitely be useful, as long as the clip gives employers a good sense of who they are and what they would bring to the table as an employee.

The incorporation of Snaplications, or a similar short video feature on LinkedIn, would allow for better representation and presentation of an individual’s professionalism and personality, and it also has the potential to make LinkedIn more of an interactive platform. LinkedIn already allows users to write a personal bio on their profile, but a video clip, no matter how short, could strongly support the individual’s writing and storytelling capabilities as well. Millennials are often characterized as lacking strong verbal communication skills, so a video feature would help qualified candidates break that stereotype and demonstrate their presentation abilities.

Whether LinkedIn will follow suit with the incorporation of personal stories or video introductions is still unknown, and until that feature arrives, we’ll sit back and watch Snaplications take form. So, for all the companies out there looking to grow a larger workforce of Millennials (or young individuals), create a filter and let them swipe left!

This blog was written at a part of Curator’s Intern Blog Series. The author, Lauren Macalalad, is a senior at the University of Washington studying communication, Spanish and diversity. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Meet Our New French Intern, Aleximie!

Hey, I’m Aleximie and I’m a senior at the University of Washington, graduating this spring and majoring in Communications. I’m a member of the UW Victoria’s Secret PINK Campus Team and am an executive member of the Association for Women in Communications, University of Washington Chapter.

I was born and raised in France, but I always knew I wanted to come to the United States to study and I’m planning to stay in America post-grad. I am a pretty outdoorsy person. I love to hike and spend time outside, but I still love to spend time with friends and just binge-watch shows on Netflix. I really enjoy working out and am attempting to eat healthier, but I cheat a lot because you only live once and pastries are #yum!

I’m really excited to intern at Curator this quarter for two reasons. First, the office atmosphere is very relaxed yet professional, which makes it a really enjoyable place to work. Second, I am simply thrilled to learn more about the world of PR and how to be a PR specialist through developing my skills and working with a wide variety of clients. I am eager to take the next step into the post-graduation world!

Curator Newsfeed: April 14, 2017

We’re all smiles here at Curator as we wrap up the week and look forward to a (hopefully) non-rainy weekend ahead! Before we jump into the weekend, let’s recap what our wonderful clients have been up to.

To start, The Seattle Times featured Ably’s Frank Henley shirt in its ShopNW section as a comfy, breathable and commute-friendly wardrobe staple, while Pyramid Breweries sat down with the Puget Sound Business Journal to talk rebranding and new label art with a bolder aesthetic.

Additionally, Utrip explains the edge that hoteliers can have over Airbnb by leveraging travel planning trends such as personalization, local expertise, location and technology to create better guest experiences.

Check out those articles and more, below!

Client Coverage:

15 ways to help you master your mass-transit commute, The Seattle Times

Easter Festivities at Stoneridge Shopping Center, Raspberry Glow

How hotels beat Airbnb by getting in bed with the traveler, Tnooz

How Hotels Beat Airbnb by Getting in Bed with Today’s Traveler, Hotel Online

Whole Foods Exceeds Prosperity Campaign's $3.2M Goal, Progressive Grocer

Lane County students spend school time working in gardens, KVAL News

Whole Foods Market foundation funds school gardens for three local schoolsBellingham Business Journal

Pyramid rebrands, taking the once-troubled brewery back to its roots, Puget Sound Business Journal

Pepsi and Jenner Commercial: A Lesson About Diversity in the Media Industry

Curator Intern Blog Series

By Lauren Macalalad, PR Intern

There’s no doubt your newsfeed was flooded last week with content about the poorly received Pepsi commercial featuring Kendall Jenner. The video sparked outrage among the public (myself included) and Pepsi was accused of appropriating and making light of the Black Lives Matter movement. To further provoke the already on-edge public, Nivea also premiered its “White is Purity” ad, which didn’t fare too well either.

Within the short time the commercial was released and then retracted, Pepsi received its fair share of backlash from the public, as well as from PR professionals. Since the release, many memes were generated to mock Pepsi’s failed campaign. Even SNL took a shot at recreating the behind-the-scenes action of the video’s filming (and it’s pretty hilarious). All jokes aside, it’s time we get serious about the root of the problem: Diversity, or rather the lack of, in the media industry.

So, what can diversity teach us and why is it vital? Well, to begin tapping at the surface of this very complex topic, I’ll list three points to help explain what it means to incorporate more diversity in the media industry.

First, diversity can teach us a great amount about the importance of assuming the minority perspective (systematically speaking) when it comes to reviewing PR campaigns. It’s always important to see something from another person’s viewpoint because it provides context as to how effectively (or ineffectively) a message is being communicated. 

Secondly, diversity doesn’t just mean hiring individuals of varying ethnic, cultural, religious or political backgrounds, but also having them occupy advisory-type seats. The role these individuals play in generating messages that align with the true meaning of civil and social struggles is key and could help prevent future PR disasters. The input these individuals would bring to the table is extremely valuable in helping steer companies’ PR campaigns in the right direction.

Finally, promoting diversity in the media industry means providing individuals of minority and marginalized communities a platform to voice their experiences and opinions. One way Pepsi could have better projected a message of global unity, peace and understanding is by centering the video around a known political activist or a person of color. Diversity is not a bad thing for companies to stand by, as long as they do so intentionally and thoughtfully.

Incorporating more diversity in the media industry can provide PR professionals a more thorough understanding of how varying audiences and communities might receive a message, as well as the opportunity to act as powerful allies to minority and marginalized groups.

Overall, I applaud Pepsi’s swift response to the event. They were quick to pick up on the storm that transpired in negative reaction to the video’s message and retracted the video once they heard what their audience had to say. The statement that Pepsi released thoroughly apologized for the miscommunicated message and, while they explained the video’s initial intention, they decided to take it down indefinitely.

This blog was written at a part of Curator’s Intern Blog Series. The author, Lauren Macalalad, is a senior at the University of Washington studying communication, Spanish and diversity. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.

What is perception? Insights from TedX

How do you know what you think you know?

How does perception shape what you think you’re capable of?

How does it shape how you believe you should interact with others or seek to change the world?

These are the questions that were posed to me at a recent TedX hosted by Bellevue College. Thought-provoking speakers shared talks inspired by the word ‘perception.’

Three speakers were the most meaningful to me that afternoon with conversation themes that encouraged and challenged.

Paula Boggs, a musician and lawyer, shared the story of her personal journey and career. Her resume is amazingly impressive, including leader of the global law department of Starbucks, tech executive, law firm partner, federal prosecutor and U.S. Army captain, to now frontwoman for “Seattle-Brewed Soulgrass,” a chart-topping jazz, rock and Americana-inspired band. There is one common dominator piloting Paula’s life path: self-interest.

Self-interest is usually experienced with negative conations such as egotism or selfishness. However, Paula reclaims it as a virtuous practice of investment in oneself. She gives herself permission to say what she needs and to pursue what she wants to be her best self and live her best life. It is what helped her realize it was not too late to pivot from a successful career in corporate America to starting a band!

Fernando Pérez is a poet and assistant professor of writing at Bellevue College. He spoke about the ‘poetry of witness’ as nurtured through his relationship with his grandmother. She was an immigrant from Mexico who moved to Los Angeles as an adolescent, and her story holds much sorrow and wisdom. Poetry of witness is the ability to hold space, without speaking, to acknowledge another’s suffering. It is to bare witness to another and validate through your physical presence.

In January, I traveled to see my grandmother in England on what was, in essence, a farewell visit as she continues to endure beyond her doctor’s expectations. I identified with Fernando’s story, having had the opportunity to hold space for my grandma.

Akin to how Fernando’s topic resonated with me, so did that of Jane Wong as she spoke on language, relationships and memories. A visiting assistant professor at Pacific Lutheran University, Jane grew up in her parents’ restaurant with rich sensory details that showed her that language is all around us. She believes we are all the authors of our stories. Sensory details are the illustrative, critical parts of our memories that give us our sense of past, place and feeling. For instance, how a familiar smell is intertwined with a childhood memory or how a flavor conjures a remembrance of a defining occasion in our lives.

Many of the speakers gave me pause, an insight that triggered intense reflection. What did I gain from Paula, Fernando and Jane?

Self-interest is a noble, yet daunting exercise. It is possible to be humble, real and kind while practicing it.

The poetry of witness is not limited to those in my life that are aging. I can bare witness and hold space for my friends, family and colleagues everyday by just being present.

Be more intentional and thoughtful to imprint the sensory details of my life. Pause to savor and bookmark what I hear, see, taste, smell and feel. Inscribing these details into my memory honors the story I have to tell.

Curator Newsfeed: April 7, 2017

Are you ready to hop into the weekend? We've kept ourselves very busy in the office this week getting down to business with our new clients, and we are LOVING it! As Easter quickly approaches, the Easter bunny has been hopping around taking photos with kids and pets at all Simon Malls, and was even spotted doing the weather report for Q13 FOX! Check out where else he’s been and what our clients have been up to, below!

Industry News:

Chick-fil-A is cooler than Vice among teens, according to a new Google report titled ‘It’s Lit’, Recode

REI's Force Of Nature Wants To Change The Game For Women Outdoors, Forbes

Client Coverage:

Easter Bunny Does the Weather with MJ, Q13 FOX News

20 Outdoor and Gardening Products You Need This Spring, DIY Network

North County School News for April 6, The San Diego Union-Tribune

How to Master Easter Bunny Photos, Obsessed by Portia

Easter Festivities at Stoneridge Shopping Center, Raspberry Glow

Easter Basket Ideas for Kids and Teens, CBS Denver

Say Hello to Our New Intern, Lauren!


Hi there! My name is Lauren Macalalad and I am a senior at the University of Washington, double majoring in Communications and Spanish and minoring in Diversity. I’m super excited for the opportunity to work alongside the Curator team as an intern and I already can’t wait to get started!

In my previous internship, I did public relations for the food, travel and tourism, health and banking industries. I was drawn to public relations because I wanted to play the role of storyteller. I love hearing companies’ stories and sharing them with others through my writing. Curator has a lot of great clients and I’m looking forward to working with them and hearing their stories.

In my free time, you’ll often find me sipping on coffee, café hopping, practicing my Spanish or reading a book. I am also a huge dog person, so if I am not playing with my dogs then I’m most likely talking about dogs or chasing after someone’s dog just to say hi. I also really love to travel. A couple years ago, I caught the travel bug and it just hasn’t gone away! I studied abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico and Quito, Ecuador, both of which were amazing trips filled with two of my favorite things: delicious food and loud music. I hope to take off somewhere after graduation and to one day see the world.