When you think of Starbucks, I’m sure the first thing that comes to mind is coffee. Maybe you also conjure up images of pastries, baristas in green aprons and names spelled incorrectly on cups. I doubt your first thought about Starbucks would be discussions on race relations. If you haven’t heard about Starbuck’s new campaign RaceTogether, it was designed to encourage employees to stimulate conversation regarding the controversial topic of race in America.
This campaign began Monday, but has already received a lot of backlash, even causing the brand’s communications leader to quite Twitter on Tuesday. Many are questioning if baristas are qualified or patient enough to have these conversations with customers. Although Starbucks is facing a lot of public disapproval from this campaign, the company wants to go forward with it because they knew it would be an uncomfortable topic, but feel that it’s worth it.
A good PR move?
Sometimes companies need to stir up some controversy in order to remain relevant and on top. However, I don’t believe Starbucks is one of those companies. Starbucks is a leader in the coffee industry and doesn’t need a controversial campaign to keep the company there. Two well known communications companies, Edelman and SS + K, are handling the PR for this campaign, however, help from successful firms doesn’t necessarily mean that the RaceTogether campaign will succeed. I think this campaign was a poor decision on the part of Starbucks’ management. Race is a very controversial topic and to put that conversation on customers who were expecting just a cup of coffee is unfair. The RaceTogether campaign sounds like a good idea, but when applied could be extremely uncomfortable and awkward for customers. I think this campaign will make customers wary about visiting Starbucks. If the RaceTogether campaign lasts, it will be interesting to see how the company’s business is effected.