One thing that definitely sets Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino apart from its cups of java is that it is highly photogenic. Changing colors, as well as flavor, with a bit of a stir, it is tailor-made for Instagram.
First, buzz was built.
“Ending days of social-media speculation over whether Starbucks would be offering a ‘Unicorn Frappuccino,’ the coffee company on Tuesday confirmed that it would indeed be offering the brightly hued, coffee-free sweet drink,” Janet I. Tu writes for the Seattle Times.
Then came the unveiling.
“Doesn't she look cute, in her pink & blue outfit? Stepping shyly from the wings onto the main stage, it's the much-whispered beverage from the Starbucks ‘secret’ menu: the Unicorn Frappuccino. Oohs and aahs, giving way to a few squeals from social media,” observesForbes contributor Ronald Holden.
Indeed, “on social media, many seemed onboard with the new drink,” writes Mary Bowerman for USA Today before providing examples with captions such as “OMG STARBUCKS IS RELEASING A UNICORN INSPIRED FRAPPUCCINO” replete with appropriate emojis. Then there’s the more reserved “Unicorn frapuccino!!! Whaaattt?!?!?! ”.
Finally, we’re hit with the urgency: it’s only available at participating stores through Sunday.
“Here for a few days only: The flavor-changing, color-changing, totally not-made-up Unicorn Frappuccino,” the official announcement on Starbucks Web site read yesterday. “Magical flavors start off sweet and fruity transforming to pleasantly sour. Swirl it to reveal a color-changing spectacle of purple and pink. It's finished with whipped cream-sprinkled pink and blue fairy powders.”
And if you weigh 175 pounds, it will only take you about 45 minutes of high-impact aerobics to burn off the 410 calories in a 16-oz. grande with whole milk and whipped cream the site is featuring.
Not that it’s totally unique.
“If you've spent any time on social media in the last year, you've probably noticed the trend of multicolored ‘unicorn’ foods ranging from pastel toast to cupcakes with sparkly toppings. Coffee giant Starbucks is catching, saddling and riding this eye-popping food fad …,” writes Amanda Kooser for CNET.
There has even been a least one previous unicorn “coffee” drink.
“The End, a Brooklyn cafe that opened in late 2016, is known for its multicolored, creative lattés — including the Unicorn Latte, made with ginger, lemon, coconut milk, honey, and E3Live blue-green algae,” reports Kate Taylor for Business Insider.
Juan Valdez could not be reached for comment, but if you take a look at some of the concoctions the Colombian coffee grower’s brand has been putting together lately at venues such as its pop-up café at the Miami Open, you have to conclude that he’s on board with the rainbow variation.
Voice of America’s “Let’s Learn English” page offers a unique spin on this product of American ingenuity, no doubt inspiring both consumers and aspiring entrepreneurs around the globe.
“A unicorn is an imaginary animal that looks like a horse. It has one straight horn growing from the middle of its head. It is a magical beast, and thought to have special powers,” it tells us. “But does a unicorn drink coffee? If you ask the American coffee company Starbucks, the answer is yes.”
A little further down, we’re informed “on Facebook and Twitter, people are already talking about the drink. Some commenters say the drink has actually already been available at Starbucks on a ‘secret’ menu. You just had to know to ask for it.”
Creating cachet is an art in itself, of course, and Starbucks has always been a master of telling Tall tales.
“It's not the first time Starbucks has jumped on a craze. The company rolled out limited-edition Pokémon Go Frappuccinos last December and has launched a vampire-themed Frappula Frappuccino around Halloween,” writes Julia Horowitz for CNN Money.
And earlier this month, the AP reports, it “introduced a ‘Pink Drink’ made with coconut milk and topped with strawberries. The company said it had previously been a customized drink that enjoyed ‘fandom online.’”
Which, unlike many things that trend online, sometimes makes the transition into the real thing (not an actual representation of the demand for a clever marketing gimmick).