Starbucks recently initiated a viral social media campaign that flamed out immediately. Baristas were instructed to write “Race Together” on coffee cups to initiate a dialog about race and inequality with their customers.
An excellent LinkedIn post by UC Berkeley undergraduate Tai Tran describes the problems with this and the subsequent PR clusterf*ck, which in retrospect seems inevitable, along with the lessons to be learned.
First, the message didn’t fit the corporate culture. Starbucks tends to sell its expensive products in upscale neighborhoods to a non-diverse customer base. One critical tweet asked how many people of color work in Starbuck’s corporate office; another noted that all the hands holding cups in a SBUX promo were white.
Then, when outraged customers and employees began tweeting to Starbucks Sr. VP of Global Communications Corey duBrowa’s Twitter account, he responded by blocking them and freezing the account (it has since been reactivated).
An inauthentic campaign>handed down from on high>with backlash met with stonewalling instead of engagement and big time mea culpa=how not to go viral with a corporate social media campaign.
I’m summarizing here because I want you to go read Tai Tran’s full article. He describes himself as “ready to disrupt the tech industry with his infectious passion and energy for marketing!” Somebody, hire this guy.