If you haven't been to a Starbucks in the last week or so, you may have missed a cool new promotion their doing with iTunes. Each day for a month, Starbucks is giving customers a small card (business card size) away with a new artist on it. On the back of the card is a code to redeem the song in the iTunes Music Store.
This is not only a good continuation of the Apple + Starbucks relationship, but a way to simultaneously drive traffic to the physical store (you can only get them in person) and to iTunes. This plays well with the iPhone and iPod Touch relationship that's already been formed between the two companies and shows Starbucks' continued move into the music retail space.
I love this idea on a couple of levels. Not only is there a big benefit to the end user (around $30 in free music), but it most likely will drive the incremental revenue to Starbucks to cover the expense a number of times over. The program also solidifies the music push to Starbucks customers who (most of which) have not ever purchases a CD or other DVD inside the store and it reinforces the position to people who have. Starbucks is also promoting new artists on a national level, the majority of whom I have not heard of.
The other piece of this that I think has hooks into MANY marketing plans is the idea of a physical artifact that ties the offline to the online. This physical card is easy to hand out at the register, easy to shove into a pocket or purse and just as easy to redeem online. These physical ties to the online world are powerful physical reminders and bridges to take offline customers into the online experience.
This strategy is one of the reasons that I love what Hugh MacLeod does, taking artwork on the back of business cards and using them as digital and physical artifacts (or "social objects" as Hugh calls them). Hugh has grown this into work with Stormhoek winery and Microsoft (pictured here), creating elements that drive users to engage with the brands on- and off-line.
I am not talking about tchotchke. These items have intrinsic value, they are not throw-aways with a web URL.
What could you create today that could take your current customers or visitors to your website or location on the social network? Is it art on the back of your business card? Is it a USB drive with cool content on it? The possibilities are endless.