Costa Coffee x Didi

Cooking Brand Preference Amidst Boiling Competition

Around the world each year coffee consumption increases by 2%. By comparison, in China coffee consumption is increasing at an annual rate of 15% - 20%. On average, each person drinks up to 20 cups of coffee per year in China compared to the average consumption in a more mature market of around 400 cups. Clearly there is a lot of potential yet to be captured in China’s growing coffee scene.

As a veteran British coffee brand, Costa has always been loved by Chinese consumers for its coffee quality. While coffee culture in China is relatively under-developed compared to other markets round the world, market competition is nonetheless relentless. Rival international brands are doubling down on store openings. A new wave of boutique coffee shops are stimulating a lot of visitation from coffee lovers seeking quality products and atmosphere. Plus, new coupon issuing brands compete on price and make coffee more accessible through delivery.

Amongst all this change, standing still wasn’t an option. Our objective was straightforward: to stay at the top of China’s growing coffee sector we needed to take a new innovative approach to marketing to stand out, build brand top-of-mind awareness and preference.

Capturing On-the-Road Coffee Lovers

Costa’s target users are mainly upscale business people, so their daily routines were put under the microscope: from the beginning of the day to the end, what they were doing, what they were reading, where they were eating and how they traveled around the city to and from meetings. This revealed that, while coffee delivery was on the rise, any journey taken during the day remained an opportunity for store visitation.

Also, the ubiquitous use of taxi hailing apps was making business travel between meetings easier and more predictable and premium limousine style services are how today’s busy executives prefer to arrive. The intersection of these two habits provided the core insight - a cup of premium coffee should be for on the road as well.

This insight actually allowed Costa to disarm two of its fastest growing groups of competitors. It simultaneously neutralized the delivery advantage of the coupon-based brands while boutique taste and feel were overcome by Costa’s store network which meant you are always close to a premium coffee experience no matter where your meeting was taking place.

Planning & Execution


Armed with this insight it was time to put Costa in the driving seat, literally. The journey to and from meetings involved more than a visit to a coffee store. More time was actually spent in the back of a cab than in a store. This provided a unique opportunity to intercept potential new customers with a surprise from Costa. All that was needed now was a vehicle for the idea. That would come through a partnership with China’s Uber-killer car hailing app DiDi which itself was seeking to upgrade its positioning in the premium private car service category and build loyalty among its customers. DiDi’s premium service brand positioning – ‘make travel more sophisticated’ (让出行更讲究) – aligned well with Costa’s 2018 brand message, ‘Don’t settle for average.’ Costa’s sophisticated (‘Jiangjiu’ in Chinese) summer journey was born.

Aromatize the Journey to Win Before They Entered The Stores

Campaign execution was delivered over a two-week period. Two of Costa’s flagship stores in Beijing and Shanghai were redecorated featuring artistic wire frame DiDi limousines to provide an interactive and shareable experience to store visitors. 180 offline retail stores nationwide offered a “Costa x DiDi” limited edition gift set containing Costa’s signature roasted beans and a special edition coffee cup.

200 DiDi’s premium cars were sent nationwide with the Costa x Didi promotion decal on the exterior bodywork and the limited edition gift sets, coupon and message on the back seat to surprise the riders and encourage them to share their surprise on Weibo.

To further amplify, we created a partnership with hot new media title GQ Lab and invited their star editors to shoot VLOGs at the feature flagship stores and while riding in DiDi’s premium cars, then write articles and create comics to support the promotion. Costa also posted on its own WeChat channel while open screen ads and Costa coffee coupons were placed on the DiDi smartphone app platform to increase exposure and sales conversions.

Effectiveness / Results

Spilling the Beans on the Results

Over the two-weeks the promotion brewed up an overall exposure of 509,790,189 impressions. Over 200 million impressions were generated from the DiDi app which immediately opened up new audiences for Costa and clearly demonstrated the value of the cross brand promotional partnership.

Our partnership with GQ Lab generated 3,285,615 impressions across Weibo and WeChat with an engagement rate exceeding 7% all of which significantly extended the reach of the partnership beyond the 800,000 readership of the print edition of the magazine. AVE for the campaign was RMB1,514,609,766 (US$212,045,367).

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The Campaign Asia-Pacific Team