Eat, drink, be engaged.

I have a Starbucks card, given to me as a thank-you by some folks at school. I don’t drink coffee (after drinking 7-8 cups a day my first year at the ad agency, I gave it up forever), but I do drink tea, Izze, and eat chocolate chip cookies and iced lemon loaf. Oh, and buy music.

From a marketing perspective, wouldn’t it be great if my Starbucks card captured my purchases to a database so that I could be emailed a coupon for cents-off one of my favorites next time I’m in? This is so basic that it’s hard to believe that Starbucks — a genius marketer — isn’t already doing it. The in-store part is totally engaging; the obvious opportunity is to extend it online (even to Second Life).

There’s a reward for me (cents-off) and a reward for Starbucks (incentive to purchase, increased frequency of visits, visit starbucksstore.com); especially appealing since I’m not one of those three-times-a-day Starbucks junkies. I stop in once or twice a month. Increasing my visits to four times a month doubles my lifetime customer value. Get me to starbuckstore.com once or twice a month and my nickels and dimes (or $5s and $10s) add up. Increase that by an order of magnitude for a Starbucks junkie.

The cost of reaching me is negligible (email), the cost of the coupon is negligible, and the database of my Starbucks habits that gets built is of value to Starbucks, and to me (I get to save money, get to be made aware of that new blues CD that’s similar to the Ray Charles one I purchased a few months ago, maybe get to sample something new on iTunes…)

Why stop at Starbucks? The system works anywhere (it’s basic CRM), but the key to making it work is the electronic engagement part. Email me an offer, embed a simple online survey to get even more data about me and the jillion other customers, incentivize me with a sweeps, a freebie, or credit to my card, and everybody goes home happy. Keep crediting my card through a points program and I keep using it, keep spending, keep saving, and it’s a virtuous virtual circle.

Make sense to you? Invasion of privacy? New World Order? Let me know.