I’ll Have a Lesson With my Latte, Please

Coffee This week, Starbucks rolled out its “RaceTogether” cup campaign, encouraging its baristas to engage in more than just idle chit-chat about the weather and local news, but to stimulate a dialogue about race relations in America.

While discussions like these are intrinsically emotional and have recently generated intense national dialogue, what role should companies like Starbucks have in promoting nationwide discourse on key issues? Companies often roll out campaigns to generate awareness about key issues and topics, or to align themselves with organizations to promote social change, and many do it very successfully. Flashback to a few months ago when our nation was collectively consumed with dumping ice buckets of cold water on our heads in support of ALS.

This idealistic campaign by Starbucks seems to have backfired, and even resulted in Starbucks’ senior vice president of communications deleting his Twitter account due to excessive trolling and backlash. While it was likely conceived with good intentions, it has received a “frothy” response.

Deciding to support a cause or attempting to generate dialogue about key issues can be a challenging endeavor for any organization. It’s something companies wrestle with on a daily basis. But scenarios like this show that the goals may not always be matched with the intended results.

  • What do you think of the Starbucks “RaceTogether” campaign?
  • What could or should they have done differently?
  • What recent or historic campaigns have you seen most successfully align important issues with a commercial product or service?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on our Facebook page.