Starbucks offered free latte: Consumers we like to think we’re winning, that we’re beating the corporate machine, that as Starbucks quote in their ad, “We aren’t just a reference number, an IP address.” Which is why, given the chance to get anything for free, we will often take it.

Leg hair removal cream – for me – why thanks! Why, not because I like my legs silky smooth, but because it’s free, I simply can’t lose.

So when Starbucks offered free latte for all customers this morning (before noon), it was no surprise that as I approached my local retailer the punters were queuing round the corner.

Their “Come and Introduce Yourself” campaign – which means you get a free drink and your name on the cup, aims to raise awareness of the corporate juggernaut and I imagine promote a cuddly, approachable, intimate, almost local image of what is one of the world’s biggest enterprises.

Starbucks have come in for major criticism over the years for their practices and so a move to soften their image, to give the consumer a free hug if you will, can only be a good thing, surely? Well I suppose that depends on your point of view.

Arriving at my local Starbucks to a window sticker which read, “Let us make your perfect latte” I felt, well, ok about it all. I was getting a free coffee, nothing more, nothing less. My day would be slightly better for it and I suppose maybe that’s the point, it’s the little things (like a free coffee from time to time) which matter most.

There’s no doubting the move has worked in raising the firm’s profile – twitter and facebook is awash with mentions of the offer – but when it comes down to it how many customers will return and pay for the same offering in future?

Call me a coffee mercenary but I took my free “Alex” coffee (after a 20 minute wait), drank it, enjoyed it, but will still be frequenting Costa (it’s nearer and I think the coffee is better) in future.

There’s no doubt the initiative will have raised Starbuck’s profile, and should help endear people to the brand – as I mentioned we all like something for free – and in that regard it has been a shrewd move.

Without knowing how much this has cost Starbucks it’s very hard to say whether the offer has been a PR success. I suppose once the froth has settled time will tell just how many new customers it has attracted.

So congratulations to Starbucks on being the first coffee chain to offer something for nothing and for their sake let’s just hope their customers are a little less fickle than I am.

London PR is a PR agency.