#MARKiesAwards 2021 case study: Maxx Coffee uses IG as payment function to win students' hearts

Maxx Coffee, a company under OUE Restaurants, unveiled its first-outpost outlet at JEM on last July with the aim of introducing Asian coffee culture to Singapore. It also set sights on delivering an experience that evoked a sense of "home" within a convivial social space. In January that same year, Maxx Coffee opened its first branch in National University of Singapore (NUS). It had to go up against big competitors that have already been established as coffee spots for students. As such, OUE Restaurants and its agency Ad Makers executed various strategies on Instagram and came up with the "Pay with a Gram" campaign.

This resulted in the team bagging the bronze award for the Most Effective Use of Social Media at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s recent MARKies Awards 2021. 


When Maxx Coffee opened its first Singapore branch last year at NUS, the company requested Ad Makers to carry out an online activation campaign. The campaign aimed to grow its new Instagram page’s following and generate buzz for the opening of its outlet in NUS. The choice of the location determined that NUS students will make up most of the potential customers who will visit and purchase from the outlet. Hence, the online activation would have to be one that attracted the attention of NUS students and spread the word of the opening among them.

Faced with big competitors such as Starbucks and The Coffee Bean, which have already been established as coffee spots for students and working adults to study or hang out, Maxx Coffee faced the challenge of breaking into the local market. Provided with SG$2,800, the Ad Makers had two weeks to help Maxx Coffee’s Instagram page grow its following from zero and raise awareness on the new outlet’s opening among NUS students. 

In order to appeal to NUS students and stand apart from the other big competitors, the team came up with the campaign called "Pay with a Gram". The big idea behind this campaign is that instead of paying with money, Maxx Coffee’s customers can pay for their coffee with Instagram’s engagement functions such as tagging and commenting. This idea effectively associates Maxx Coffee with Instagram engagement and builds up the brand image as one that its consumers can engage with easily like their friends. By bringing the consumers’ attention to Maxx Coffee’s social media presence and encouraging them to interact with it, this helps to distinguish Maxx Coffee apart from other competitors as not only a place that they can hang out with their friends in real life but also a presence that they can engage with online.


As the aim of the campaign is to grow Maxx Coffee’s following on Instagram, the campaign was executed on Instagram and made use of Facebook ads to promote the campaign online. To fully utilise Instagram’s different engagement functions, the "prices" that customers can pay for their coffee with change daily. For example, they can pay by following Maxx Coffee on Instagram on Monday, but they can pay by commenting on Maxx Coffee’s post on Tuesday. As customers pay with a different type of engagement each day, they engage in a variety of interactions with Maxx Coffee’s Instagram account, which reinforces the idea that the consumers can easily interact with Maxx Coffee on Instagram, regardless of which form of engagement they use.

To further emphasise the idea that Maxx Coffee is a place consumers can visit or interact with both online and offline, the team also started the practice of using the hashtag #MeetMeAtMaxx on all its social media posts. Not only does this hashtag convey the idea that NUS students can meet their friends or classmates to hang out or study at Maxx Coffee, students can also make use of this hashtag to tell their friends that they want to visit Maxx Coffee with them. Be it driving consumers to the store via online posts, or consumers sharing their offline experience with Maxx Coffee online, this hashtag effectively helps with both online-to-offline and offline-to-online conversation.

The creative expression of the collaterals also ties back to the big idea. On the day of the launch, a poster that was done in-house was installed in the Maxx Coffee outlet. The poster was creatively designed with the layout of an Instagram Story viewed on a phone, and its QR code also aims to redirect consumers to Maxx Coffee’s Instagram page. This ties back to the big idea that Maxx Coffee is a youthful and relevant brand that students can easily engage with on social media, just like a friend.


By making use of teasers, creative collaterals, NUS students as key opinion leaders, and setting the "price" of each day as a different Instagram engagement function, the campaign effectively establishes a strong connection between Maxx Coffee’s brand image and its consumers. To introduce the campaign, from 6 January to 11 January 2020, the teasers were first announced on Maxx Coffee’s Instagram page about its opening promotion, informing its target audience that they can get free drinks from Maxx Coffee when they interact with Maxx Coffee on Instagram. This sets the stage as it generates buzz and anticipation towards Maxx Coffee’s opening.

To attract more attention from the target audience, NUS students were made out to be key opinion leaders and were featured in a video that was uploaded to Maxx Coffee’s Instagram page. This reinforced the connection between Maxx Coffee and NUS students, and cultivated a sense of belonging among those who are influenced by the NUS key opinion leaders, and encouraged them to view Maxx Coffee as a brand that is aligned with NUS students. As part of the teaser campaign, creative collaterals of drinks that could be redeemed during "Pay with a Gram" were also uploaded onto Maxx Coffee’s Instagram. By adopting a casual and friendly tonality across all captions, Maxx Coffee said it deepened the sense of similarity and connections between the target audience and the brand image.

Mechanics on how to redeem free coffee were posted on Maxx Coffee's profile as an Instagram story. As mentioned, the "prices" change daily, so the Instagram stories are updated daily to inform customers on which social media engagement they can use to pay for their coffee that day. To ensure the active participation of its customers throughout the campaign, for the first day, to "pay" for their coffee, consumers have to follow Maxx Coffee’s Instagram page and turn on post notifications so that they can be promptly notified of the next activities throughout the online activation.

Over the two weeks, the target audience is exposed to multiple ways for them to interact with Maxx Coffee’s Instagram page. In this process, through the customers’ actions of liking, commenting, tagging, and sharing, the impressions of Maxx Coffee greatly increased among NUS students as its presence spread across social media via these engagements.


In a span of two weeks, Maxx Coffee’s Instagram account had hit a total of 2,500 followers. Its Facebook Ads has accumulated a total reach of more than 245,000 accounts and attained an engagement count of more than 9,800. The total reach of the campaign and its total engagement was marked at more than 245,000 and 9,800 respectively. 

The Ad Makers helped Maxx Coffee to attain a reach of close to 10,000 over 14 days, the buzz and attention generated is more than sufficient for Maxx Coffee to make use of and convert potential customers into loyal customers. In fact, Maxx Coffee has already served more than 1,800 cups of coffee over the first three days of the campaign. The company said it effectively broke into the local market and can expect to consistently reap profits from a sizable and growing consumer base. 

While the campaign was ongoing, Maxx Coffee also received a lot of engagement through Instagram stories, which contributed to the brand’s exposure in NUS. Here were some of the Instagram Stories used during the campaign:

1 engagement results 1

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