Missed PR hook for Costa?

01 October 2019 | Becky White
If I’d have written this a year ago, I’d have started this blog by saying how much I love an autumnal flavoured latte when autumn rears its head – whether that’s the famous Starbucks Pumpkin Spiced Latte, or Costa’s Bonfire Spiced Latte. I can’t tell you whether it’s due to a change in taste preference, or a shift in syrup quantities - but I’m extremely sad to admit that I can no longer cope with the level of sweetness that comes with them.

Nevertheless, my intense love for coffee remains – and whether I opt for a cappuccino, flat white or latte macchiato simply depends on the mood I’m in that day. And for many coffee lovers like me, it was a delight to discover that Costa is giving out free coffees from its express self-service machines this week in a bid to highlight that express coffee is better than its reputation might suggest. After all, don’t knock it until you try it, right?

Of course, after hearing this news, I checked out my Twitter feed to see the opinions of other coffee advocates. #CostaCoffee has, indeed, made its way into Twitter’s trending list, and as expected, I came across many happy Costa customers expressing their excitement of a free beverage and, perhaps, Costa hopes a positive shift in opinion around express coffee.

Upon reading further though, I came across a very thought-provoking argument that completely changed the game for me. It’s no doubt that we’re entering the colder months now, and of course, we can’t forget about those less fortunate. It seems that unlike the Hot Water Bottle Network, which heart-warmingly partnered up with local coffee shops to provide hot water bottles for the homeless, Costa seems to be focusing on increasing its customer base rather than creating a campaign that would support those who need it.

It seems that Costa has missed out on a great PR opportunity here, that would have not only given its reputation a boost, but would have also offered much needed warmth and comfort for the homeless. Simply putting up a sign next to Costa express machines asking customers to ‘Hand a coffee to a homeless person near you’, could, perhaps, have been such a simple move, yet had such a significant impact.

‘Take advantage of #CostaCoffee giving free coffee out in @ShitChester and drop it off at Hamilton House for the homeless guys’, and ‘ the right thing people & give your free cup to the nearest homeless person you see’ are just a couple of the supportive comments under the #CostaCoffee hashtag, encouraging others to think twice before claiming their free hot drink.

I, for one, am glad that Twitter users have raised this argument – with many encouraging others to give a coffee away. Although Costa itself has missed out on the opportunity to raise awareness for the homeless, I will most certainly be picking one up this year for someone who needs it.

It now seems, though, that after all the excitement of grabbing a free coffee, keen drinkers have bled Costa’s express machines dry – since many of them have now actually run out of coffee. You’d be forgiven for thinking that’s a bit of a nightmare for Costa, leaving coffee drinkers across the country rather upset at the prospect of missing out and turning the stunt into a negative. Given the added costs associated with handing out lashings of free coffee, is it an expensive car crash of a PR move? Well, in truth it probably isn’t. Yes, people have been annoyed about missing out, but plenty of people haven’t. The move has also been talked about all over the news and social media, so I predict a genuine spike in sales for Costa’s express offering. With more people giving it a go because of a freebie, it’s a logical step to assume they’ll return at some stage with cash in hand.

Of course, though, that doesn’t stop me thinking they’d have fared better focusing on raising awareness for the homeless. Perhaps that’s one for next time, Costa!