Starbucks Dabbles with Corporate Democracy

In a piece for Business Week Jeff Jarvis, author of BuzzMachine (among other things), profiles Starbucks’s concept — an initiative Jeff calls a foray into corporate democracy. The site allows Starbucks customers to offer advice on improving its customer service, products or business practices. Starbucks (the retail chain) benefits from good ideas it may soon implement, and Starbucks (the brand) benefits by connecting with customers at higher, more emotional level — through a conversation in which customers have a voice, and Starbucks listens and responds.

“‘If [an idea] fails,” says [Starbucks CTO] Bruzzo, “our customers who are on MyStarbucksIdea ought to participate in being accountable for it.’ Whether an idea is accepted or not, customers get only the satisfaction of participating; there are no payments or other tangible rewards.”

What an excellent example of a brand-as-conversation, or what we at FM call (and Jeff often criticizes!) conversational marketing.

Starbucks Splash Stick

  1. # Jeff Jarvis said: May 16th, 2008 at 9:14 am

    Cheers, Chas.
    The difference is that Starbucks isn’t paying for these views. That changes things, eh?

  2. # Joe Kutchera said: May 19th, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    While some folks criticized their idea as being half-hearted, I say hats off to a big company for really trying to connect with its audience. The next question is: are they advertising with Federated Media?

  3. # Chas said: May 19th, 2008 at 11:17 pm

    Jeff–I’m not sure it does. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with brands paying customers for feedback and suggestions; the practice of paid focus groups is older than I am! Starbucks improves on the focus group model in at least two ways. One, they’re getting feedback from a much larger pool of customers, not just a handful behind the one-way glass. Two, these customers are motivated to participate by a desire to make Starbucks better, not a check from the focus-group firm. Good for Starbucks. But their win, in my opinion, doesn’t make brands who use paid research — in relation — a bunch of losers.

Leave a Reply