We live in a nation divided. Today, no company is safe from a presidential reprimand or widespread outrage and backlash, including damaging boycotts (well deserved, or not).
In my estimation, brands must stand for something now more than ever. What’s always been true about differentiating on product attributes is now also true about the community around the product, and the people who make and market the product.
Are you going to drink more or less Coors Banquet when you know that members of the Coors family actively support conservative causes?
Are you going to drink more or less Starbucks coffee when you know that its CEO is actively looking to hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years—a great operational move for Starbucks and a major “up yours” to the sitting executive in the White House?
From a “Letter from Howard”:
We have a long history of hiring young people looking for opportunities and a pathway to a new life around the world. This is why we are doubling down on this commitment by working with our equity market employees as well as joint venture and licensed market partners in a concerted effort to welcome and seek opportunities for those fleeing war, violence, persecution and discrimination. There are more than 65 million citizens of the world recognized as refugees by the United Nations, and we are developing plans to hire 10,000 of them over five years in the 75 countries around the world where Starbucks does business. And we will start this effort here in the U.S. by making the initial focus of our hiring efforts on those individuals who have served with U.S. troops as interpreters and support personnel in the various countries where our military has asked for such support.
Depending on what side of the political fence you are on, you now love or hate Starbucks more than you did before. Is this intense polarity bad for business? I am not convinced that it is. Donald Trump rode to power on the power of a dedicated following. Most brands would do anything for a deeply loyal following, but most brand managers hesitate when it comes to risking the company’s reputation. The problem is, for loyalists, hesitation kills.
Starbucks also is actively supporting veterans.
Thanks to the company’s commitments to the people and communities they serve, people attracted to these issues (helping vets and refugees) are now more open to a product story.
In related news, homes near a Starbucks are worth more money. Between 1997 and 2013, home closer to the coffee shop increased in value by 96%, compared to 65% for all U.S. homes.