From Coffee to Content
Seems like Starbucks is making more than coffee these days. The coffee giant’s CEO, Howard Schultz, has collaborated with his SVP Rajiv Chandrasekaran to write and produce Upstanders – an inspiring 10-part original content series. Upstanders are ordinary people doing extraordinary things to effect positive change. Using a journalistic process to identify compelling, authentic and inspiring stories, Starbucks has raised the bar for branded content. Each story comes in 3 formats – written, video and podcast – and focuses on ordinary people doing positive things.
Chandrasekaran, a former editor at The Washington Post says, “If you pick up a newspaper this morning or listen to the radio, you might think that, as a country, we are flying off a cliff.” He rejects the notion that modern society is “fundamentally broken.” Consequently, he went in search of stories of good being done all over America.
The fine set of documentaries includes films about the man who opened a car wash where 85% of employees are on the autism spectrum, Also the mosque built across the road from a church in the US bible belt Memphis and a woman who helps female ex-convicts stay on the straight and narrow by providing a home free from drugs, alcohol, and abusive relationships.
Stand By or Stand Up?
Starbucks is making the most of its huge digital reach to get the word out about the series. Their mobile app has about 20 million users and includes Upstanders content. Furthermore, its Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts are also promoting the series. In a neat move, the chain has partnered with good news syndicate Upworthy to spread the content. In addition, they are taking out print ads in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. The Podcasts will also be distributed on iTunes and Spotify.
“Our goal here is not to sell more coffee; it is to inspire and engage millions of Americans to be better citizens,” noted Chandrasekaran. “More Americans need to be standing up, rather than standing by.” The chain also wants customers to encourage people to vote, find the “upstanders” in their communities, and share their stories with Starbucks.
“This really is squarely a social impact endeavour for us,” Chandrasekaran explained. “It is not a brand campaign; or a product promo campaign. We are trying to do the right thing for our country at an important moment. We want to harness our scale for good.”
Maybe that’s true. However the brand has made a lot of effort and expense to raise awareness and associate itself with positive stories of good. Improved perception of the brand will probably be one result of this PR push. Is it a cynical move or does it inspire you to become Upstanding too? One thing is for sure – the content is really very good.