In my New Media class today we discussed the Starbucks Race Together campaign that encouraged baristas to engage in conversation about race while serving customers. Yes, it was just as uncomfortable as it sounds and ended in utter failure.
In their attempt to solve hundreds of years of racial uproar in five minute coffee breaks, Starbucks stirred up a latte trouble for themselves.
Customers complained of it being insensitive and racist in itself. This brought up the predominate white marketing involved in the campaign. Here you can see that only white hands grasped the coffee cups used in the campaign.
And to top it off the company’s positions of leaders are predominately white men. So how does the multi-million dollar company with stereotypes revolving around “white preppy girls” get into such heated debates?
It all stemmed from tensions in the United States following the police killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Mo., and New York. Starbucks piggybacked onto the controversy of this heat and used it for publicity.
“It looks like @Starbucks has united tweeters of all races, colors, creeds, political persuasions in hating its #RaceTogether idea.”
-Author Virginia Postrel, a former editor of Reason magazine
There seems to be many ways this campaign could go wrong. Asking anyone to discuss controversial topics before they had their morning coffee is bound to get you in trouble!
Despite the failure of the campaign it is important to study. You can learn just as much, if not more, from the failure of others.
Starbucks failed to know their boundaries and where to draw the line. Coffee and coffee accessories are their specialties and perhaps that is where their specialty should remain.