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How a Loyalty Program Change Hurt the Starbucks Brand

Starbucks — Most Admired 2016Starbucks — Most Admired 2016
A Starbucks cup.Photograph by Zhang Peng — LightRocket via Getty Images

Starbucks last month received plenty of criticism last month when it announced an overhaul to the coffee giant’s loyalty program and essentially asked customers to spend more to get a free drink.

Citing YouGov data, Adweek is reporting that the company’s brand perception slumped by 50% since the wake of that announcement last month. YouGov CEO Ted Marzilli told Adweek that Starbucks’ (SBUX) customers still quite highly consider the brand when thinking about the next time they’d purchase coffee, but that there is less loyalty than in the past.

As Fortune reported last month, Starbucks overhauled the company’s “Starbucks Rewards,” where rewards were no longer based on number of transactions but rather dollars spent. The change was enacted because some customers were asking baristas to ring up items separately to game the rewards system, in the process slowing up the line at the cash register.

But the change came with some criticism. Customers took to Twitter and other social media channels to lament the new program, which requires visitors to spend a bit more to get a free drink.

Tinkering with the loyalty program comes with risks beyond potentially seeing a dip in repeat coffee purchases. Earlier this year, Starbucks told investors the company’s mobile app helped the chain lure in customers by giving them an incentive to try the company’s breakfast offerings.