Starbucks and the ‘Starkbucks’ Jonathan’s Card Viral Marketing Campaign

Starbucks may be back to its old viral marketing PR tricks again with a new but familiar campaign called “Jonathan’s Card.”

Jonathan's Card

So the story goes, mobile payment application developer Jonathan Stark wanted to create a “social experiment,” and decided to post an image of his Starbucks payment card online for others to use at no cost.

The concept is similar to the Starbucks pay-it-forward cheer chains that the company has used in the past to distribute coupons plus an extra shot of commercially fabricated self-serving goodwill. There’s nothing more than a consumer loves than feeling good about getting free stuff!

The company later had its employees comment on my blog with fictitious postings of consumer support in favor of Starbucks, but unfortunately failed to anticipate that I can see the originating IP address of incoming comments, which in their case came from within Starbucks HQ — oops.

One can understand my immediate skepticism when learning that a new, more technologically advanced unsolicited outpouring of love for Starbucks is now burning up tech blog sites on the Internet; it took me about 30 seconds using Google to become more skeptical.

Mr. Stark is quoted on his website and many of the articles surrounding the promotion as saying:

For the record, Jonathan’s Card, Jonathan Stark (me), this site, or anything else I’ve ever said or done is totally not affiliated with Starbucks.

Unfortunately there’s one small wrinkle in that statement, his ‘day job’ employer apparently is totally affiliated with Starbucks. Mobiquity Inc. describes its Orwellian services as “conceive[ing], execute[ing] and deliver[ing] impactful Mobile Computing solutions…” that, “capture real-time behavioral insights through analytics, profiling and modeling.” Its Vice President of Application Architecture?

Jonathan Stark at Mobiquity

…and who does Mobiquity provide its “behavioral modeling” programs for? Hmmm… I wonder:

Starbucks Mobiquity

…but, I had to grab that image from a recent Google cache of its website, because for some strange and unexplained reason (he says with a wink), the company’s “client” page was recently taken offline. Here’s what you see today:

Mobiquity client page

Though far from the smoking gun that proves Starbucks is behind the promotion and paid Mobiquity and its employee Jonathan Stark to invent and deploy the campaign to dupe media and its readers into visiting a Starbucks, this should be valid cause for any serious journalist to spend at least a minute out of his or her day researching the story before declaring it fact rather than paid advertisement.

Unfortunately in the world of electronic communication, no one seems to care anymore what is real and what some company is being paid to make the consumer masses believe and feel.

UPDATE AUGUST 9, 2011 7:30AM HST: The Mobiquity Inc “Client” page cache has been deleted from Google; clearly someone is following this post and cleaning up loose ends on the Jonathan’s Card scheme to make it appear more organic. Don’t worry boys, I got screenshots.

UPDATE AUGUST 9, 2011 6:30PM HST: Thank you to everyone who warned me about my line that ironically suggested “…send me $.50.” It was a joke, but I don’t need any more email about it so I pulled it out… please no more. Thank you, I love you all.

UPDATE AUGUST 14, 2011 7:30AM HST: Starbucks has announced that they will be shutting down Jonathan’s Card, effectively ending the so-called experiment. What’s next for Mr. Stark? I suspect that it will be a new humanitarian giving project valid only at participating McDonald’s.

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Starbucks and the ‘Starkbucks’ Jonathan’s Card Viral Marketing Campaign

40 Responses

  1. If anyone is interested, my thoughts here:

    https://www.facebook.com/notes/jonathans-card/the-real-deal/174391689299156

    Jonathan Stark August 9, 2011 at 9:56 pm #
  2. Thanks all for your support, my closing summary of the situation can be found here: http://www.coffeestrategies.com/2011/08/10/jonathans-card-karma-macchiato

    Andrew Hetzel August 10, 2011 at 2:37 pm #
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