Cade Martin Creates a Wonderland for Starbucks and Tazo Tea

By Barbara Goldman

When we think of grabbing a cup of coffee, probably the first name that comes to mind is Starbucks.  Starbucks gives us exotic brewed coffees, espressos, lattes, cappuccinos, macchiato, mochas, Frappuccino’s – coffee in every conceivable way and in every size to satisfy and provide that quick pick-me-up.  Recently the café giant branched out again to introduce a taste of the exotic with its first Tazo Tea store in Seattle.  

Tazo is known for discovering new tastes in tea and searches ingredients from only a select group of countries, including the black teas from India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Kenya, and green and white teas from China.

To  promote the new opening of the Seattle Starbucks Tazo Tea store this past November, Starbucks wanted a campaign that would create a  mood and an  atmosphere-—  a world where anything is possible.   “The whole concept was revolving around providing a visual metaphor to display on packaging the benefits of the new line of well-being teas.  We wanted to do this in a brand appropriate way for Tazo, and take this as an opportunity to enrich the brand positioning and its already unique visual vocabulary,” explains Starbucks Creative Director Daniele Monti.

The Starbucks creative staff identified a short list of photographers who seemed to have the ability to capture the magic and the whimsy of the new Tazo brand. They wanted something in between a modern “Alice in Wonderland” and an iconography that pulls from different times, places and cultures—“life reblended, as the Tazo manifesto states.”

 The Starbucks creative staff for the Tazo Tea campaign, which included Creative Director Daniele Monti, came across advertising photographer Cade Martin’s  work through his New York City-based photo agent, Greenhouse Reps.  Shortly after Martin heard of their interest, he happened to be in Seattle on another project and was able to meet with them in person.  “He completely understood, but inspired us to further refine the concepts for each shot and created a level of excitement that pushed the project to a whole new level. We needed a great photographer, a creative visionary, and someone with the technical abilities to make it all happen. We found all this in Cade and his team,” says Monti.”

© Cade Martin

Cade Martin is an award-winning photographer for advertising, corporate and fashion clients worldwide.  He loves detail and his work shapes an environment that echoes the real world but also presents an ethereal and emotional sense of wonder.  He has  worked for such clients as Tommy Hilfiger, Coors Brewing Company, Zurich, America's Next Top Model, Discovery Channel, Karla Colletto, IBM, Verizon, Marriott International, Grey Goose, National Geographic Society and now Starbucks.

Martin focused the campaign on a series of images using keywords such as “thrive, settle, focus” that he attached to each image. “In pre-production we discussed what the words meant to them, what did they mean to me, and we talked, marinated and knocked around ideas,” says Martin.  He scouted the locations with the producer, sent test shots, gave recommendations and helped to refine all details in terms of talent, wardrobe and props.  When all was ready, the shoot took place last July for four days in the L.A. area, between Beverly Hills and Pasadena.

Martin started working with movie lights and movie crews about four or five years ago, so for the Tazo project he used all HMI’s with mostly Arri lights, as well as grip and generators.   “I love the quality of light you get with HMI's and instruments you have for control,” says the photographer.  He has a preference to start his shooting right at first light whenever possible, but LA has strict rules regarding entering locations. He could not even get access to most locations until 7:30 or 8:00 a.m. and so the magic light is long gone and a challenge he had to work around.  

Although he loves still photography and is an avid collector of photo books, Martin ‘s love for the cinema has always influenced his work.  Ever since he was a boy, he has loved going to the movies and being completely enveloped by the story, the personalities, the exotic places and the glamour on the giant screen.  For Tazo, he wanted the images to have that same kind of heightened narrative and cinematic quality.  

The final images are now being used in the store and a number of them are being used on Tazo Tea packaging.  Although they are still images, they have that feel of something out of a movie filmstrip and each one has a story that goes beyond that one frame.

© Cade Martin

Starbucks has been thrilled with the campaign, the organization and the professionalism they encountered with Martin’s work.  His love for experimentation and a twist for the unusual brought inspiration to the process and still managed to stay on budget.  Cade was never shy to experiment or "give it a different twist" as he  was both inspiring and inspired in this whole process.

 “The experience was so positive, enriching and rewarding that made all of us better in the way we approach photography and art direction.  We were very very fortunate to find Cade. A relationship that we will want to nurture and grow in the future for sure,” adds Monti.

You can also see Martin’s work from this campaign on the cover of PDN’s March lighting issue in print and digital edition here. See more of the whimsy and wonder of Cade Martin’s world at his site,

 © Cade Martin


PDN August 2016: The Fine-Art Photography Issue

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