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Meet America’s New Diversity Trainers: Starbucks Baristas

Posted on  20 March 15  by 

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by Monica Mason

Starbucks recently rolled out a new initiative — #RaceTogether — that has many consumers perplexed as to why they should be having a conversation about race with their Starbucks barista. And what’s even more puzzling is that Starbucks’ CEO, Howard Schultz, stands by his decision to encourage these kinds of conversations at the counter, further proving that he and the Starbucks brand are out of touch with, well, reality.

What would make Starbucks think that consumers, prior to their morning caffeine fix, would be interested in having an in-depth conversation about anything with a Starbucks barista, much less a conversation about race, especially considering that people who normally facilitate these kinds of discussions have to participate in specialized diversity training?

im_NationalProtests_401240_2Starbucks isn’t the first brand to take part in the national race conversation. As we’ve covered, Ben & Jerry’s announced its support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement by encouraging franchisees to sell T-shirts benefiting the Hands Up United organization. And the LUSH cosmetics brand supported employees who wanted to participate in peaceful protesting during the 2014 holiday season.

But are brands really trying to engage in an honest conversation about race, or are they trying to capitalize on a buzz-worthy topic to keep them in the public eye? Although Starbucks might have had good intentions, the #RaceTogether initiative lacked a constructive approach to a sensitive issue, and the consumer response further demonstrates that the brand missed the mark. Instead of taking an inside-out approach, Starbucks should have considered: 1) What do our customers think? 2) How might our brand really contribute to the conversation? and 3) What’s the end goal?

 

photo credit: fuseboxradio, Flickr.com

 

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