Starbucks-#Race Together Comms 0012-#3


Recently, in the United States, there was a huge controversy put out by Starbucks as one of their marketing campaigns that backfired. It was called “race together”. They wanted to invoke talk about the racial issues in the United States. Starbucks employees got in on the action by posting in Instagram and Twitter sharing some of their racial stories.
They had so much negativity for creating this conversation the company’s senior vice president of communications actually deactivated his Twitter account to avoid the public hatred towards him about this campaign.

Starbucks baristas were asked to write #racetogether as a hashtag on each cup of coffee. The servers were encouraged to talk with customers about this tough issue in the US. Some baristas gave permission to share their stories on Starbucks web page. In the past, Starbucks has had “cause marketing” campaigns on issues like AIDS or “Make someone smile”, “Mondays can be good”, Tweet a coffee etc. This latest campaign was the one that caused huge frenzy of negativity for the company.

More the 71,000 people used the #Racetogether hashtag stating their views. This topped in social media trends in the United States when the campaign began last week.

Many news casts and people were saying, “Why does Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz feel the need to force an issue such as the state of race relations on patrons?”. Other patrons were saying, “I get the thought behind this effort, but if I stop in for a cup of coffee, that’s all I want”. Or “Keep your opinion on race to yourself, and I’ll do the same.”
And “People just don’t want to be preached to about race when they’re buying their coffee”.

USA Today joined in the campaign asking four questions online. They were, “What is America’s greatest race challenge? And “Did you have a childhood friend of a different race that you’ve lost touch with? Why?” And, “How have your racial views on race evolved from those of your parents?” And, “When did you first become aware of your race?” .

@CBCthecurrent tweeted:”Wld you like that coffee with a chat about race? Critics pour cold water on Starbucks #RaceTogether campaign”
Starbucks cancelled the #racetogether after one week as they were getting a lot of negative press on this discussion.

Starbucks will have to get very creative on their cause marketing to make a comeback from this campaign. Regardless of this major mistake, people still line up to buy their coffee! I wonder if their sales when down at the same time? Somehow, I don’t think so as there was so much chatter on social media there had to be people lining up as per usual where they found out about the Racetogether# campaign.

One thought on “Starbucks-#Race Together Comms 0012-#3

  1. Hi there, Thanks for your interesting post. I think Starbucks will be thinking very carefully before undertaking a similar campaign in future. I believe for this type of initiative you have to “walk the walk” not just “talk the talk.” For example, perhaps Starbucks should examine the ranks of their senior management, or even their regular staffers, to see how many people of colour are employed. Perhaps Starbucks advertising should feature (more) people of colour. At the end of the day in my view, particularly with a freighted topic like race relations, you have to, and be seen to, do good before you can talk about being good.

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