Starbucks Looks to Influence Political Hang-Up, but It Should Probably Finish Fighting its Own Battles First


“Pay It Forward,” meet “Open It Back Up.” Starbucks—which rarely misses a zeitgeist-related marketing ploy—is offering a free tall cup of coffee to any patron who buys a drink for another customer, in what CEO Howard Schultz somehow intends to translate into a moral example for those responsible for the federal government curtailment in Washington, D.C.

Schultz previously has tilted at budget-deficit gridlock in Washington and spoke out in support of gay marriage in various ways associated with the iconic brand. This time, he said, Starbucks aims to push citizens to “support and connect with one another, even as we wait for our elected officials to do the same for our country.” No word on why he believes that Americans haven’t already been supporting and connecting with one another.

Anyway, such exhortations are just one way that Schultz has been moving Starbucks way beyond its original java base since he shored the chain up a few years ago.[more]

The opening of a new Evolution Fresh juice plant in Los Angeles under Starbucks ownership is another example. So is the still-forming joint venture with Dannon USA to bring a unique line of Greek-style yogurt to Starbucks outlets. The expansion of the Teavana tea-shop chain that Starbucks now owns, a flirtation with the home carbonation of beverages, and the broadening of pastry choices under Starbucks’ control of the La Boulange bakery round-out the cafe’s most recent endeavors. 

“We have a lot going on here,” Schultz told the New York Times, in one of the great understatements of the year for a brand CEO.

Speaking of pastries, Starbucks dropping its two cents in the “cronut” trademark bucket by creating a not-so-new hybrid for its stores; a half-doughnut, half-muffin pastry that it is calling the “Duffin.” It’s made with a buttermilk-nutmeg batter, filled with jelly and rolled in sugar, and is now a permanent menu item in 730 UK stores. But the pastry has attracted its own share of detractors, with a UK-based bakery, Bea’s of Bloomsbury, claiming that it is in fact the creator of the original Duffin.

And the hastag accompanying the controversy couldn’t be a better fit for Starbucks’ hybrid food/political role: #Duffingate