Skip to main content

"Race Together": Flawed, But Brilliant

Brand mastery, like leadership, means taking a stand and sticking with it. 

Howard Schultz, the founder and CEO of Starbucks, has taken such a stand with his new "Race Together" campaign. 

Even though it has generated much controversy.

Even though experts in the branding community have slammed it.

With his insistence on following a singular vision that is true to the brand -- not politics, not popularity contests and not opinion polls -- Schultz shows once again that he is the definition of a brand master. 

What people don't understand, but should, is that Starbucks is a vision of community.

It is Schultz's world to build. A world of conscious capitalism. 

In this world, as in every well-organized system of production, profits come first - they have to. 

But the relationships among people dominate the conversation always.

From Schultz's point of view, when the gulf in our community is so great that people can no longer talk with one another, the brand is in danger.

If he made a mistake, and I think he did stumble a little bit here, it was to have the baristas be the brand ambassadors for race relations.

Instead he should have confined himself to affixing "Race Together" to the coffee cups; selling a book on the subject; or perhaps donating profits to a worthy related cause.

The mistake was, really, to go against the brand by dehumanizing the baristas. It's counterproductive to try to turn people into mouthpieces for your personal agenda -- even if it is a good one -- unless they sign up for that.

Overall though, Schultz is on the right track by once again reinventing the brand to stay relevant, and taking it to a higher ideal. 

Howard Schultz is a man on a mission. If it's a major, divisive social issue, he will not stop till we talk about it.

Preferably over coffee.
All opinions my own. No federal agency or any other official commercial endorsement expressed or implied. Photo by K. Johansson via Wikipedia.

Popular posts from this blog

What is the difference between brand equity and brand parity?

Brand equity is a financial calculation. It is the difference between a commodity product or service and a branded one. For example if you sell a plain orange for $.50 but a Sunkist orange for $.75 and the Sunkist orange has brand equity you can calculate it at $.25 per orange.

Brand parity exists when two different brands have a relatively equal value. The reason we call it "parity" is that the basis of their value may be different. For example, one brand may be seen as higher in quality, while the other is perceived as fashionable.

All opinions my own. Originally posted to Quora. Public domain photo by hbieser via Pixabay.

What is the difference between "brand positioning," "brand mantra," and "brand tagline?"

Brand positioning statement: This is a 1–2 sentence description of what makes the brand different from its competitors (or different in its space), and compelling. Typically the positioning combines elements of the conceptual (e.g., “innovative design,” something that would be in your imagination) with the literal and physical (e.g., “the outside of the car is made of the thinnest, strongest metal on earth”). The audience for this statement is internal. It’s intended to get everybody on the same page before going out with any communication products.Brand mantra: This is a very short phrase that is used predominantly by people inside the organization, but also by those outside it, in order to understand the “essence” or the “soul” of the brand and to sell it to employees. An example would be Google’s “Don’t be evil.” You wouldn’t really see it in an ad, but you might see it mentioned or discussed in an article about the company intended to represent it to investors, influencers, etc.Br…

Nitro Cold Brew and the Oncoming Crash of Starbucks

A long time ago (January 7, 2008), the Wall Street Journal ran an article about McDonald's competing against Starbucks.
At the time the issue was that the former planned to pit its own deluxe coffees head to head with the latter.
At the time I wrote that while Starbucks could be confident in its brand-loyal consumers, the company, my personal favorite brand of all time,  "...needs to see this as a major warning signal. As I have said before, it is time to reinvent the brand — now.  "Starbucks should consider killing its own brand and resurrecting it as something even better — the ultimate, uncopyable 'third space' that is suited for the way we live now.  "There is no growth left for Starbucks as it stands anymore — it has saturated the market. It is time to do something daring, different, and better — astounding and delighting the millions (billions?) of dedicated Starbucks fans out there who are rooting for the brand to survive and succeed." Today as …