01/08/2013 12:05 pm ET Updated Jan 09, 2013

Free Starbucks Blonde Samples Aim To Sway Light-Roast Coffee Drinkers [UPDATE]

A new fleet of promotions launched by Starbucks this week operates on the following principle: some gentlemen may prefer blondes, but all gentlemen (and -women) prefer free coffee.

The coffee chain is encouraging customers to taste its Blonde Roast coffee, which debuted in autumn 2011, and its even newer Vanilla Blonde coffee by offering free samples in several different venues for a limited time starting Tuesday.

The chain is offering free 12 oz "tall" cups of Blonde and Vanilla Blonde coffee via a new Facebook app for the purchase of "eGifts." If you sign up for the app, you can send yourself and a friend an electronic coupon redeemable for a free cup of the light-roasted coffee.

Starbucks is also opening pop-up stores in Boston, New York, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago, and Dallas that will be offering free cups of Blonde and Vanilla Blonde coffee, plus coupons for a dollar off packaged beans of the two varieties.

Starbucks initially made its name brewing pitch-black roasted coffees that were richer-tasting and more caffeinated than the insipid grocery-store varieties to which most Americans had become accustomed. Yet even after Starbucks had been training the country's palates for years, a sizeable minority of coffee drinkers -- about 40 percent, according to QSR magazine -- claimed to prefer lightly roasted coffee. (Among them were many diehard coffee connosieurs, who insist that dark-roasting beans zaps the nuance out of their flavor.) Starbucks hopes that by pushing its Blonde Roast hard, it can win over a larger share of this $1 billion segment of the market.

UPDATE: 1/9/13 4:30 pm -- If you didn't act quickly yesterday, and don't live in one of the six cities hosting a Blonde-themed pop-up store, you may not be able to get free Starbucks after all. A commenter Tuesday afternoon noted that the Facebook page that had been distributing free coupons no longer permitted users to sign up for eGifts, so we got in touch with Starbucks PR to see what was up. It turns out eGifts are a far more limited resource than we ever could have imagined. "We have experienced overwhelming interest in our new Light Notes app," the Starbucks spokesperson said. "And although we have distributed all of the vouchers for free coffee, customers can still visit the site and send a Light Note to a friend or family member." Alas!



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