Our research topic, the unicorn trend, came from the current fascination generation Z( the millennials) have with the mythical creature, as seen on social media. The trend was especially noticeable with big companies like Starbucks releasing unicorn related products. We wanted to know why this centuries old creature saw such a prominent rise in popularity and how big companies could use the unicorn its popularity in marketing. We tried to answer our research question, why should or should Starbucks not continue to use the Unicorn trend in their marketing strategy? In order to get an answer to this question we used three sub-questions. The first sub-question is : where did the unicorn trend come from? In order to understand the appeal of the trend we will need to know where it came from. To get a clear answer to this question we have used literature research. The second sub-question is: Who is talking about it? In order to get to know the audience that are attracted to the unicorn trend. This is best found out via the different channels that broadcast the trend and keep it alive, which in this case is people talking about the trend via social media. We will get the information concerning this question by using gephi scouring the different social media platforms for the people with the biggest social media reach talking and thus influencing the trend. The third sub-question is how do people react to the (Frappuccino) unicorn trend? This question is used to get an idea on how the reaction towards the trend is. A positive reaction is needed to keep the trend alive which means Starbucks will be able to continue riding the trend. To answer this question we will use netnography research, looking at what people have to say on social media about the trend.
After some literature research we came to the conclusion that the concept of the unicorn has been around since the Babylonian and Assyrian civilizations. But it is likely the legends surrounding the creature could be even older. Over the years the image we have of the unicorn have become significantly more “feminine” with people associating the creature with rainbows, sparkles and bright colors. This association probably comes from the Christian text Physiologus where a unicorn can be tamed by a virgin girl, signifying purity and innocence. This idea of the unicorn concept was heavily reinforced by the cult classic cartoon My little pony, originally aired in the 80’s.
Since the my little pony cartoon the unicorn aired in the 80’s there have been multiple iterations, remakes and reboots of the show, keeping the mythical pony relevant and popular over multiple decades.
Now we knew where the unicorn came from, but we still needed to know what the appeal of Unicorns is.
While using literature research we found that there are almost no academic sources on the unicorn trend outside of the unicorn as a business model, which is something completely different. This meant that we needed to get our information from alternative sources. Using the keywords: unicorn, unicorn trend and unicorn Frappuccino. We found multiple blogs talking about the appeal of the unicorn.
In an article from Metro UK journalist Miranda Larbi talks about her theory on why the unicorn is currently as popular as it is. She believes the Unicorn hype currently has changed from what it was in the 90’s into a form of peter pan-syndrome. Where it used to be a fascination with mythical creatures it, according to her now is a form of escapism or denial.(Larbi 2017) If this is true this means that the unicorn hype can be compared to something like drugs or alcohol. According to Metro UK and the female oriented blog refinery29 the unicorn is not the only mythical creature that is popular right now. According to both websites there is a mermaid trend slowly reemerging. This could indicate that the mythical creature trend will not go away soon. Starbucks could use this to their advantage by making the unicorn Frappuccino the first in a line of mythical creature drinks.
After doing our quantitative research using Gephi to search multiple social media platforms using multiple keywords we have found that there are multiple different communities scattered around the different social media platforms that are talking about it.
On twitter, using #unicornfrappuchino as key word, it was quite clear that Starbucks was the main pusher of the hashtag with them involving multiple celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. Through these celebrities Starbucks reaches a big audience with almost every island of people being connected in at least some form.
Also on twitter we were using just the hashtag #unicorn. This hashtag showed us a different result then the former hashtag used. It seemed that while using this hashtag people seemed more divided, with more different communities that mostly resembled islands, with only a small linkage between some of them.
On Instagram we did research using only the keyword unicorn. We found that the community talking about unicorns consisted of multiple islands again, but this time there were both big and small islands with linkage between the bigger islands.
Because during our Instagram research we found that the biggest part of the unicorn tend was unicorn related food, this is why we had decided to use the keyword unicornfood on Facebook. The results showed that it were mostly big accounts that were linking a really big network together.
After all this research we can conclude that the unicorn trend is huge and that in almost every community the unicorn hype consists in one form or another people are excited about the food, the merch and the animal. This means Starbucks could keep marketing the unicorn in different ways to appeal to the multiple different communities.
For our netnography research we had decided to do passive covert archived data collection in order to get un-altered and uninfluenced data. The sub-question we tried to answer with our netnography research was: how do people react to the (Frappuccino) unicorn trend? We used this sub-question as a way to find out how the unicorn Frappuccino was received by the public. The way the coffee was received is crucial in finding out if and how starbucks should be continue marketing the trend.
We have used communities within Facebook, Reddit and Youtube because of their comment based systems. After collecting a total of 274 comments about the unicorn Frappuccino we came to the conclusion that 70 percent of the comments we gathered were positive comments of the Frappuccino. After the coding process we found that just over half of the negative comments were concerning health issues. This means that the biggest problem with the unicorn Frappuccino the unhealthy aspect of it is.
Out of the netnography research we can conclude that most people are on board with the unicorn trend, but if Starbucks would make the unicorn Frappuccino more healthy over 85 percent of the people would respond positively towards the Frappuccino.
To answer the question why should or should Starbucks not continue to use the Unicorn trend in their marketing strategy?
Starbucks should continue using the unicorn in their strategy, it is a trend that does not seem to go away soon, as evidenced in the fact that it is a trend that is already going on for centuries. Because it is popular in multiple communities and the unicorn craze is almost everywhere they will be able to market it in multiple ways, appealing to all the different communities, getting as much people to talk about their Frappuccino as possible.
According to the netnography research, the main problem people have with the unicorn Frappuccino is the unhealthiness of the product. This is a problem Starbucks might be able to solve by trying to change the formula of their coffee in order to make it more healthy. This will enable Starbucks to market the Frappuccino not just as the unicorn Frappuccino, but also as an healthy product, expanding the interested audience.
It also seems that it is just not the unicorn that sees a rise in popularity, there are multiple mythical creatures like dragons and mermaids that are becoming more popular. This could be a business opportunity for Starbucks, for example they could create multiple creature themed drinks. This would bring Starbucks the opportunity to create a hype multiple times around basically the same product, and giving the customer the luxury of choice.