Starbucks Rewards as Stretch Goals (Business Brilliance #18)

6 January 2020 | 7 Comments

Thanks to my frequent trips to local coffee shops to treat my girlfriend to her morning brew, I’ve started to enjoy small doses of lattes on occasion. As a pleasant side effect, I’ve also discovered that several of these cafes offer rewards programs.

Before I go any further, I’m sorry for the completely random post about Watchmen yesterday that you may have seen in your inbox. That was intended for my personal blog, not my Stonemaier Games blog.

I’m particularly impressed by the gamification offered on the Starbucks Rewards app. For every dollar you spend on Starbucks, you earn 2 stars. If you accumulate enough stars, you can spend them to receive free coffee, handcrafted drinks, and merchandise.

The star system by itself is satisfying and motivating. But the Starbucks Rewards system is even more enticing because of the various challenges it offers to get extra stars. Two recent challenges were to order 2 lattes within a 5-day period to earn 30 bonus stars or to simply place 3 separate orders over the span of a few days to get 75 bonus stars. They’re completely manipulative…but they’re fun, and they work.

This system made me think about stretch goals on Kickstarter, which are another manipulative-yet-fun way of encouraging engagement, sharing, and overfunding. I think it would be interesting to see a campaign use this reward system for their stretch goals (note: I’ve seen projects use some of the methods described below, but not all of them in combination).

Here’s how I envision a “star stretch goal” system:

  • Starting on launch day, explain how stars are earned (1 star per backer and 1 star per funding dollar). You could even reward extra stars for certain reward levels if you want to push backers towards them. Social media stars are also a possibility. To encourage day 1 backers, you could double all stars earned in the first 24 hours.
  • Also on launch day, display around 5 stretch goals and their star costs. These should range from low star costs (in case launch day doesn’t go as well as you’d hoped) to high star costs (in case launch day goes way better than expected).
  • Every day, update the stretch goal graphic to indicate the current number of earned stars. This number will fluctuate as stars are spent (see the next point). If the project needs a little boost, you could post a challenge specific to that day.
  • Every 2 days, post a project update with a poll backers to determine their most desired stretch goal to spend stars on at that time. By spacing out the votes, you ensure that you’re not rushing through all stretch goals in the first week of the project. Post the results on the next project update and add a new star stretch goal option (potentially even something that backers have requested, even if you didn’t originally plan for it).
  • In the final 48 hours, remove the limit of one stretch goal reward per poll. So if there are enough stars earned, all stretch goals could be unlocked.

I think this system checks pretty much every box I look for in stretch goals. The one thing that’s a little iffy to me is that it seems like backers would almost always be inclined to vote on the highest-star stretch goal reward. Though perhaps the most expensive stretch goal in terms of production isn’t always the most exciting stretch goal.

What do you think about this method? If you’re a Kickstarter creator who ends up using it, please share a link in the comments below!


Unrelated, if you have the chance, I’d highly recommend checking out the presentation on Unsettled’s Kickstarter page. I particularly admire the explanation of the framework and the planets.


This series features innovative strategies from non-Kickstarter, non-tabletop game businesses as they might apply to creators and entrepreneurs.

Also read: The Current State of Stretch Goals (2019)

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7 Comments on “Starbucks Rewards as Stretch Goals (Business Brilliance #18)

  1. Love this idea whole heartedly! It combines the good aspects of the achievement stretch goals with the $ stretch goals. It makes every little action a backer takes make a difference in the campaign.

    I will absolutely use this for our campaign later in the summer. It has great gamification as the number of stars assigned to different tasks can be huge and the final number of stars might be huge. It give the campaign three metrics to work off of – # of backers, $$, and engagement scored with number of stars.

    Im not huge on having backers choose stretch goals. I like them being a part of choosing artwork, and design aspects, but less about specific stretch goals.

    Very motivated by this, thanks Jamey!

  2. I wonder if the gamification concept also couldn’t be applied to the game design process. Actually, I think it is obvious that it could, but I wonder how. One idea that crossed my mind was to use this concept to manage playtests, granting playtesters certain digital rewards (like stars) that could later on be converted into physical products and merchandise. Anyway, it is rather interesting to think how many things can be done in the game industry using a concept that comes from gaming itself.

  3. Great article, Jamey!

    I feel like there are some interesting ideas here. I’d like to see how this would work on an actual Kickstarter campaign.

    I know these types of promotions are good for businesses like Starbucks that have customers frequenting them often, so it would be interesting to see how it would work in a setting like Kickstarter, where most people pledge once and then may watch and comment on the campaign, but don’t continuously purchase from the same seller. It would have to rely on community, spreading the word, and bringing other people in, as opposed to repeat business by the same customer.

    I’ll be running a campaign later this year and will definitely come back to this article for ideas that I can test.

  4. Thanks for the explanation of the Watchmen blog, I was on my way to comment on it yesterday and was a little confused when it wasn’t actually there.

    I’ve found that ‘polling’ backers via updates can be a struggle since Kickstarter doesn’t offer an option to insert polls directly, is there a way of embedding polls into updates that anyone knows of? I’ve not seen it happen, but it feels like it should be a thing that exists?

    I agree that I assume that if people can vote for one option, and they have 500 stars, and the options get bigger and better at 100, 500 and 1000 stars, there is the risk that everyone will just vote for the thing that’s 500 stars. I’d say that the other risk is that you put something at the top end that assumes the project will be super successful but that everyone saves up the stars by voting for little things then goes for the big one at the end. So you end up with a bunch of 50-100 star upgrades and one 10,000 star upgrade. I’d be interested to see how the experiment shakes out if anyone goes for it.

    What I’ve found with this sort of thing personally is that a small percentage of backers get super engaged with it. As such something that offers a little bit of engagement to a lot of people seems to be more than the majority are interested in and less than the really engaged section are looking for. In my last campaign I put up a series of riddles in updates that led backers to a hidden web page that unlocked a reward if it got enough visits and I was really happy with how people engaged with that, but I noticed that it was about the same level of engagement (in number of backers) that I got from polls on things like the design of playmats or if we should have a plastic first player marker or a metal one. I’m hoping to extend this with the next campaign and test the theory, though it might be less true as backer numbers climb significantly.

    Jamey, I know that Stonemaier games has some super committed fans, the people who go through videos with a fine toothed comb to spot bits and pieces, have you ever considered intentionally laying out something very involved for the committed few? I seem to remember you talked in the past about laying out a digital scavenger hunt (though I could have just dreamed that) and I’m sure you have the pull to do an amazing job of it.

    1. “have you ever considered intentionally laying out something very involved for the committed few?”

      I like to drop little hints here and there in various forms of content–the attentive few seem to enjoy that. :)

  5. Hi Jamey,

    I am starting a KS campaign in a few days and this is really interesting. Let me give it a thought and make a first mockup about this.

    I think we can do something really interesting.

    Thanks for the idea!

  6. This is a brilliant idea! It sounds like a really fun way to keep backers involved throughout the campaign. l’ll let you know if I end up using it for my project, Vowel, this upcoming spring/early summer!

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