How Starbucks has tapped into the uplifting messaging mood

When we think of brands buying up advertising space in newspapers, we expect them to promote their products or services or to be willing to show some important message about their business. That is not what happened when Starbucks has bought up a full two-page newspaper space in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal.


Image: PRWeek

The ads ran after a recent Starbucks shareholder meeting. They wouldn’t probably be noticed by major news outlets if it wasn’t for the fact that they said completely nothing about the brand itself. Instead, they showed a positive and uplifting message regarding the upcoming 2016 Presidential Elections in the USA.


Image: PRWeek


Image: PRWeek

I welcomed these ads with a smile. They send a positive message and try to get the brand engaged into socially-important, topical conversations. For the US consumers, the upcoming presidential elections are definitely on top of the agenda.

According to Corey duBrowa, DVP of global communications at Starbucks, “the ads are intended to amplify this message of unity and opportunity and reinforce the core themes of [Schultz’s] speech at [Wednesday’s] meeting,”(Kanski, 2016).

“This is not about pushing a particular political agenda or candidate. And it is about far more than just the 2016 election,” duBrowa added. “This is about elevating citizenship above partisanship and emphasizing the role and responsibility that each of us has in strengthening our democracy.” (Kanski, 2016).

This is not the first time when Starbucks tries to engage their customers and the wider public into topical issues. Last year, the brand encouraged the employees and customers to discuss racial discrimination issues using a hashtag #RaceTogether, for which it faced quite a backlash in the media.

Even though the previous attempt can be named a ‘PR Fail’, this time I think Starbucks got it much better. What they have done this time was more subtle and gentle. It encouraged the debate and gave tone to it without suggesting any answers. I felt a little inspired and warm inside when reading the ads and I think that is what the intention of Starbucks was. After all, if we feel positive emotions when reading Starbucks ads, we will develop a positive sentiment which will be subsequently attached to the brand. No doubt, it was a PR attempt at creating a positive sentiment towards the brand, but it was also a nice and gentle one.

Kanski, A. (2016). Starbucks: Positive newspaper ad blitz about much more than the 2016 election. Available from:

Featured image: PRWeek


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