Starbucks Steps Into Content Creation with Upstanders
Oct 18, 2016
It’s been about a month since Starbucks launched Upstanders, an “original collection of short stories, films and podcasts sharing the experiences of Upstanders – ordinary people doing extraordinary things to create positive change in their communities.”
My initial reaction to this launch? It went a little something like this – “OK Starbucks. Whatever. You’re a media company now? That’s….wait, it’s September. Pumpkin spice season!”
But after that first grande nonfat Pumpkin Spice Latte, I got to thinking about Starbucks as a media company. Sure, Starbucks has partnered with brands like Spotify and Google before, but this – this is different.
The content they’re creating, these short stories and podcasts, aren’t being used as advertising. They’re not plugs for the latest espresso drink, there aren’t strategically placed Frappucinnos throughout. The idea behind Upstanders is to promote stories of positivity that are often ignored by more traditional media companies.
One of the most powerful? “The Mosque Across the Street” – a story about an Islamic Center being built across from a Methodist church in Memphis, Tennessee.
After reading this story, it hit me.
This is a news story, which makes Starbucks a news company. They’re both a coffee brand and a publisher.
Traditionally, news companies are responsible for sharing the “unbiased truth”. Sure, there are exceptions to this. Multiple Republican-leaning newspapers during the 2016 election have openly endorsed Clinton, calling Trump “not qualified” for the job as President. That’s definitely something that hasn’t happened in a while. So, does that still hold true for Starbucks? Will they cover stories – good or bad – about themselves?
This also isn’t the first time that a major brand has stepped into the publishing game. It certainly won’t be the last. Like all other brands making this transition, I think the success of Upstanders will lie in the type of stories Starbucks is choosing to focus on.
Starbucks has historically promoted doing good. They source ethically and sustainably. They donated a tree for every bag of coffee sold in 2016. They make these things known, sure – but they aren’t in your face about it.
A study by the University of Georgia found that millennials are the most cynical generation ever. EVER. They also don’t watch the news. Anyone else think these things go hand-in-hand? That millennials are over the endless stream of negativity in the nightly news, and would prefer to pick and choose by finding their news online?
Starbucks is delivering positive news, in a way that millennials connect with – through short, digestible articles, videos and podcasts. They’re attending events like South by South Lawn, and are encouraging readers to share their own stories and photos. And their cult-like following is almost guaranteeing coverage.
Talk about a company that knows their incredibly large, and loyal, audience – young adults aged 18-24 account for 40% of Starbucks sales.
Now, it’s been almost a month, and I still haven’t watched every video, or read every story. But I’ve definitely started thinking differently about Starbucks.
When I graduated from the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism (more than) a few years ago, I never thought about Starbucks as a potential employer in my field. This years journalism majors are probably thinking a lot differently, though.
Thoughts? Holler at me with questions, comments, and new Starbucks drinks I should try, I’m @harymanley.