starbucks-race-together-hed-2015

By: Nick Stirsman

Starbucks’ #RaceTogether campaign may have had good intentions but that was not enough to stop it from backfiring horribly. The idea for the campaign undoubtedly came to fruition at a time where racial tensions in the US are the highest they have been in recent history. The idea of the campaign is that Starbucks would encourage its baristas to write “Race Together” on the coffee cups before giving them to the customer. This was in an effort to inspire their customers to discuss race in the wake of the police shooting in Ferguson. Instead of inspiring conversations about race, Starbucks found one of the most efficient ways to piss off countless customers.

Who could have possibly thought this was a good idea? Well apparently this is not the first time CEO Howard Schultz has involved Starbucks in a heated issue. The CEO disagreed that race was too heated of a topic to discuss while trying to get a cup of coffee. The idea was born after the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. Schultz met with around 2,000 employees who resided in cities with high levels of racial tension. The idea was born, and Schultz has claimed that no employees are required to engage in these conversations, only encouraged.

Social Fail tweets

It probably was not smart to assume that people would be able to have a meaningful conversation about race in the time it takes to order a cup of coffee.

The idea for the campaign was (supposed to be) simple. Starbucks employees would right the words “Race Together” on the cup of coffee before giving it to a customer in an effort to stir up a conversation about race. The hashtag #RaceTogether also existed in case customers wanted to continue the conversation after they left the stores because obviously race is a complex issue.

#RaceTogether is a clear cut example of a social fail. Starbucks claimed that they knew this would be a difficult conversation. If the response the twitter community had to the campaign is anything to go off of it’s apparent that this was more difficult than expected. Twitter users and Starbucks customers alike were outraged at the idea that Starbucks believed a meaningful conversation could be had while ordering coffee.

It was ignorant for Starbucks to think that this campaign could possibly reduce racial tensions in the United States. The first mistake they made was believing that this issue could be remedied in the time it takes the average customer to grab a cup of coffee in the morning. It is impossible to envision a scenario where this campaign could achieve its goal of having meaningful conversations about race. That is because most people go to Starbucks and spend very little time there. The average customer walks in, orders their drink, and leaves. This is a quick process, and in this time Starbucks hoped to accomplish something that takes much more time to do. The only way to make this campaign better is by doing it outside of their stores where time is not as much of a factor. It is ambitious for Starbucks to try and be an advocate for social justice, but sometimes you need to take a step back and realize when you are not advancing your cause.

References:

Cullers, R. (2015, March 18). The Internet Is United in Despising Starbucks’ ‘Race Together’ Cup Campaign It got people talking, but not positively. Retrieved February 15, 2016, from http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/internet-united-despising-starbucks-race-together-cup-campaign-163540

Morrison, M. (2015, March 17). Starbucks Tries to Spark Conversation About Race (Definitely Sparks Snark on Twitter). Retrieved February 15, 2016, from http://adage.com/article/cmo-strategy/starbucks-hopes-spark-conversation-race/297633/

Popken, B. (2015, March 17). Starbucks wants baristas to talk about race with customers. Retrieved February 15, 2016, from http://www.today.com/money/starbucks-wants-baristas-talk-about-race-customers-t9356

Reuters. (2015, March 22). Starbucks ends ‘Race Together’ campaign in stores, effort not over. Retrieved February 15, 2016, from http://www.cnbc.com/2015/03/22/starbucks-ends-race-together.html

Wahba, P. (2015, March 16). Starbucks to encourage baristas to discuss race relations with customers. Retrieved February 15, 2016, from http://fortune.com/2015/03/16/starbucks-baristas-race-talk/