retail news in context, analysis with attitude


by Kevin Coupe

Starbucks is moving beyond the coffee-and-food business, and getting into the fresh content business.

Which means, I think, that it continues to be in the brand-building business.

The company has unveiled a new, free series called "Upstanders" - available as text, podcasts and video - that it says "is storytelling in the public interest, but brought to you by a Fortune 500 company."

Advertising Age reports that the series - a multimillion dollar project - is the brainchild of Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Starbucks executive producer and a former editor at the Washington Post, and "is designed to highlight 10 positive and inspiring tales from across the country, including those of Baldwin, Mich., a town where residents have banded together to give every high school graduate a college scholarship, and John D'Eri, who employs autistic individuals to work at his car wash."

And, the story goes on: "Starbucks plans to promote the effort through its own retail and digital channels, including its mobile app, which Mr. Chandrasekaran noted has had 20 million downloads to date, and print ads in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. The company partnered with Upworthy and Mic.com as well to market the series to millennial audiences, and is working with Fotition, a new social change platform."

It seems to me that this is entirely consistent with Starbucks' broader approach to business. Agree with it or not, the company always has had a social consciousness component as part of its business plan and marketing message, and focusing on outstanding individuals is a great way to create connectivity with positive social forces.

BTW ... Ad Age notes that the title of the series "comes from an employee town hall meeting Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz held last year in which a staffer mentioned the word as an alternative to being a bystander."

It is an Eye-Opener.

One other, unrelated note that I can't help but making. It wasn't surprising yesterday when Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz decided to publicly endorse Hillary Clinton in the current presidential race. It was a move that has the potential of sending 40 percent of the population running to Dunkin' Donuts or Peets or Caribou, I suppose ... but at the same time as the Schultz endorsement was being reported, it also was reported that the Walton family in Arkansas also is supporting Clinton. (When was the last time Schultz and the Walton families pulled the same lever in the voting booth?)

The Washington Examiner writes: "The heirs of late Walmart founder Sam Walton are backing Hillary Clinton for president. Collectively, the leading members of Arkansas' Walton family have given about $714,000 to the candidate and the Democratic Party during the current election cycle, federal records show.

"The donations are an example of the longstanding ties between the Walton and Clinton families. It is an awkward situation for the candidate, a former Walmart board member, since most of her allies in organized labor and the broader liberal movement detest the Waltons, mainly because of the company's anti-union stance. Clinton has sought to distance herself from the family in recent years and has returned donations from the company in the past after they became controversial."

I have no idea what this all means ... but I do wonder how many people will stop shopping at Walmart because of these donations.

Just curious.

KC's View: