A new campaign from Starbucks blends all the greatest nightmares of the modern era: talking with strangers, overstepped boundaries, and brand engagement. Somehow, it’s even worse in practice than it sounds….
The biggest problem (among the numerous issues this campaign seems to raise), is the sheer number of people who will be made extremely uncomfortable by it: pretty much everybody involved besides Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz (indeed, the first victim of the initiative seems to be Starbucks’ own communications VP, who was so uncomfortable about the “conversation” the campaign was generating that he deactivated his Twitter account).
In order to get a sense of just how uncomfortable, I went to the four Starbucks closest to my office and asked the baristas about race. It is difficult to put into words the relief of never having to do so ever again.
Like most Americans, I had only a foggy, Cliff’s Notes notion of this campaign at the outset. Starbucks was definitely asking baristas to speak to customers about Ferguson and other race-related issues, with all locations technically participating, but the finer details remained a mystery. Were the baristas, presumably already quite busy, receiving any training, or getting paid extra for this?