Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Starbucks baristas spell your name wrong - a conspiracy?

I am sure that the majority of you who have been to Starbucks have had your name misspelt on the cup at least once.

A few days ago, I came across some articles suggesting that Starbucks baristas do so on purpose.

The sources proposing this are obviously questionable but if their propositions were to be true, this could be a way of influencing Starbucks’ customers to advertise their brand for free, as people usually share it on their social media. 

As a result, more people are exposed to the brand through their friends' social media and unconsciously develop a preference for it because they see it so often. This technique is called mere exposure (Zajonc, 1968). Janiszewski (1993) suggests that mere exposure may lead to positive attitudes towards a brand even though the customer may not necessarily recall being exposed to it. Hence customers' preference levels are boosted by constant exposure to Starbucks' brand on social media. 

A similar effect was demonstrated by Ruggieri and Bpca (2017) on mere exposure to brand and consumer preferences. researchers showed one group of high school students an excerpt from a movie with product placement in it and second - without. The results demonstrated a stronger preference for brands in the first group than in the second, indicating that a preference for a brand can develop just as a result of being exposed to its logo. 

Obviously it is unclear as to how reliable the sources claiming this conspiracy are but would be a very interesting way of manipulating customers!


Burns, C. (2016). Do Starbucks always get your name wrong? This is the crazy theory suggesting it’s deliberate and whyThe Sun. Retrieved 4 March 2018, from

Janiszewski, C. (1993). Preattentive mere exposure effectsJournal of Consumer Research, 20, 376-392.  

Ruggieri, S., & Boca, S. (2017). At the Roots of Product Placement: The Mere Exposure Effect. Europe's Journal of Psychology, 9, 246-258.

Wilkinson, J. (2016). New conspiracy theory explains why Starbucks always spells names wrongMail Online. Retrieved 4 March 2018, from

Zajonc, R. B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9, 1-27.

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