Ohio University Strategic Social Media

Crowdsourced Learning Lab #ouj4530

Category: Nick Stirsman

Starbucks #RaceTogether Campaign Fails Miserably


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.


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/

Mountain Dew Wins with #PuppyMonkeyBaby Campaign and Superbowl Spot

By: Nick Stirsman

Last night during Superbowl 50 Mountain Dew aired a commercial titled, “Mtn Dew Kickstart: Puppymonkeybaby” that was quite different from what we are accustomed to seeing when it comes to Superbowl spots. The campaign is for their new beverage Kickstart and features their new mascot, puppy monkey baby, a hybrid creature that was most likely cooked up by a mad scientist. You could try and forget what the puppy monkey baby looks like, but you will never be able to forget the song he was singing (or chanting).

The goal of this campaign is to market a new drink from Mountain Dew called Kickstart. The idea to use puppy monkey baby in the commercial makes a little more sense when you break down the product and who is being targeted. The new drink is comprised of three major ingredients: Mountain Dew, caffeine, and juice. Three popular ingredients make up the new beverage so Mountain Dew decided to go slightly mental and have the mascot for the drink literally be a combination of three very popular things.


This was Mountain Dew’s first ad in 15 years and it definitely divided the audience. The campaign originally launched a teaser video at the end of January. Despite the obvious love/hate relationship viewers have, I believe that this was a social win and one of the more successful ads aired in recent Superbowl history.  Since the campaign launched, the commercial has racked up 11 million views and over 50 thousand tweets.  It’s safe to say that this spot has people talking about Mountain Dew more than ever, whether it was positive or negative. This campaign is definitely riskier than your normal Budweiser Clydesdale commercial, but the risk is paying off because everyone is talking about #Puppymonkeybaby and Mountain Dew.

Mountain Dew drinks are known for being highly caffeinated which draws in a specific consumer base. One example of a larger community with close ties to Mountain Dew is the gaming community. Now Mountain Dew’s decision to go in a new direction with their campaign doesn’t seem so strange when you account for who they were trying to appeal to.

Mountain Dew has succeeded at drawing in many people with the #Puppymonkeybaby movement. People on social media are talking about Mountain Dew their new mascot, but not so much campaign puppy monkey baby is the face of. I think that the shock value of the puppy monkey baby may have distracted the audience from the message about Mountain Dew’s new drink Kickstart and because of it most attention is focused on Mountain Dew and not specifically Kickstart. This isn’t a huge issue, it just means that most people won’t go and directly search for Kickstart. They are more likely to search for #Puppymonkeybaby or Mountain Dew where they will then be directed to  Kickstart.

In the end I think it is safe to say that Mountain Dew’s campaign is going swimmingly and are happy with the successful launch of the Kickstart campaign and puppy monkey baby’s reception.


Frank, V. (2016, February 8). The best and worst commercials from Super Bowl 50. Retrieved February 8, 2016, from http://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/nfl/the-best-and-worst-commercials-from-super-bowl-50/ar-BBpenEF?li=BBnb7Kz&ocid=SL5LDHP#page=3

Johnson, L. (2016, February 7). Really Resonated. Retrieved February 8, 2016, from http://www.adweek.com/news/technology/6-big-stats-show-what-super-bowl-ads-resonated-people-169501

Mooney, P. (2016, February 7). ‘Puppy-Monkey-Baby’ Superbowl 50 gets 7 million Youtube views. Retrieved February 8, 2016, from http://www.inquisitr.com/2776439/puppy-monkey-baby-super-bowl-50-mountain-dew-commercial-gets-7-million-youtube-views-video/

O’Reilly, L. (2016, February 7). Mountain Dew’s weird ‘Puppy Monkey Baby’ Super Bowl ad completely split viewers’ opinions. Retrieved February 8, 2016, from http://www.businessinsider.com/mountain-dews-weird-puppy-monkey-baby-super-bowl-ad-completely-split-viewers-opinions-2016-2

Shapiro, E. (2016, February 7). Super Bowl 50 Ad: With Mountain Dew, a Puppy, Monkey and Baby Collide. Retrieved February 8, 2016, from http://abcnews.go.com/Sports/super-bowl-50-mountain-dew-puppy-monkey-baby/story?id=36778039