Starbucks gets scalded with response to #RaceTogether campaign
If Howard Schultz and Starbucks’ management team didn’t already know, they certainly do now — no good deed, or attempt at one, goes unpunished. The company has been widely criticized this week for a campaign it has launched to get Americans speaking about the controversial topic of race in the U.S.
Earlier this week, baristas at the chain’s stores began writing "Race Together" on cups. The company also placed full-page ads in The New York Times and USA Today and announced it would partner with USA Today to publish supplements on the topic.
The point of the campaign is to start conversations that will create empathy, hopefully leading to action being taken and, ultimately, change. The idea grew out of internal meetings with associates following a series of troubling events last year involving racial minorities around the country. According to Fortune, nearly 200,000 Starbucks employees roughly — 40 percent of its total — belong to a racial minority.
Response to the campaign has been both swift and critical in the media and via social channels. Some have pointed out that Starbucks’ own policies (low wage rates) lead to some of the racial inequality its CEO says he is trying to address. Many questioned the (profit) motives of the chain in starting the campaign while others said it was naive to think any real discussions could take place in busy coffee shops.
Speaking at the company’s annual shareholders meeting, Mr. Schultz said, "There will be cynics and some in the media who criticize Starbucks. This is not some marketing or PR exercise. This is to do one thing: use our national footprint and scale for good."
- Why Race Together – Starbucks
- A Conversation With Starbucks Partners about Race in America – Starbucks
- Here’s What People Are Saying About Starbucks’ ‘Race Together’ Campaign – NPR
- ‘Race Together’ Critics Tell Starbucks to Put Its Money Where Its Mouth Is – Vice
- The Internet Is United in Despising Starbucks’ ‘Race Together’ Cup Campaign – Adweek
- #RaceTogether rewrites Starbucks annual meeting – USA Today
- #RaceTogether – Twitter
- Starbucks, USA TODAY team to tackle racial issues – USA Today
- #RaceTogether Rewrites Starbucks annual meeting – USA Today
- Starbucks to encourage baristas to discuss race relations with customer – Fortune
- Starbucks’ ‘Race Together’ initiative is widely panned – The Seattle Times (tiered sub.)
Will Starbucks’ #RaceTogether campaign ultimately help or hurt its image and business? Is Howard Schultz “naive” to think such efforts are worthwhile? What should the company do in the face of all the criticism it has received?