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April 2, 2015

Is Starbucks Trying to Launch a New Video Content Marketing Company?

Starbucks has long been a bastion for the sharing of intellectual ideas and the widespread distribution of information. Their collaboration with Barnes and Nobles has made it much easier for Starbucks users to imbibe in literature and has increased the overall sophistication of these coffee drinkers. The company is going one step further, however. In February 2015, Washington Post journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran left his job at the Post to embark on a journey with Starbucks to create a media company that highlights and discusses social issues through adept storytelling. This innovation means that Starbucks is forging new paths in the realm of content marketing and dipping into a medium that is rarely used by its competitors.

Less Competition in Certain Channels

Marketing to an audience requires that you have the attention of the audience in order for you to get your message across. Although you can’t always tune out the background zeitgeist, you can limit it to a dull roar. In the case of Starbucks, their communication channels as far as getting a message out to the masses are pretty efficient. By delving into this video marketing channel, they are, in essence, doing something that sets them apart from other larger companies and multinationals.

Companies such as GE and Red Bull are the major multinationals that have shirked the trend of traditional content marketing strategies and instead have gone for something far more impressive on a grand sweeping scale. A simple idea made into a massive scale marketing success is what drives GE Reports, GE’s aim is merging content and innovation with marketing strategy. Starbucks seems to have taken a page out of their book and has started moving towards creating a new paradigm in terms of video content marketing.

Building on Their Brand

Starbucks has been a longtime advocate for social issues. Most recently, the CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz made the statement that over the next five years his company will employ ten thousand veterans. This dedication to society is not something we see every day and Starbucks stands out from the crowd in giving back to the people who stood for their country. Starbucks’ aim in doing this is to try to make it easier for veterans to get work when they return home.

Because of Starbucks’ presence in the public eye as a highlighter of social issues, it’s very likely that their video marketing will be easy. Starbucks has a good idea here, and with the proper support it can turn out to be very beneficial for their business. As more and more multinationals are coming to realize, having ready access to an audience is one of the most important things for a large brand. By utilizing video content of a high quality, Starbucks can consolidate its user base and draw upon customer loyalty in order to drive social change.

Familiar Ideas, New Platform

Anyone who has been to a Starbucks recently is likely to remember how prominent video screens are around the store. They are positioned specifically to attract attention. Starbucks has gone to great lengths to streamline their marketing strategy in the real world to give regulars to their coffee shops the best experience they can have and encourage them to come back. The videos that they show are designed to market, but not in the same way that an online video would.

Although the idea of video marketing is not new to Starbucks, it is a brand new thing for them to carry their video marketing efforts online. By creating a media channel that is associated with the brand, Starbucks has struck upon the idea of owning their core audience. Aside from the building of customer loyalty, it also helps to increase their visibility and the visibility of the causes they stand for.

Learning from Past Failures

Starbucks investment into movies and video isn’t an overnight fad. In the past the company has helped to fund and promote movies that focus on specific social issues. Two of the most well-known movies that they have been involved in are “The Arctic Tale” and “Akeelah and The Bee”. Both of these films were far from financial successes. They were, however, popular in their own right once they got out to the mainstream, and this is where Starbucks can build on what they learned.

Probably the number one problem that films centered on highlighting social issues have is that they are poorly promoted. Most people can remember the films they’re looking forward to see in the next quarter at the cinema, but very few of them are aware that there are films that underline social issues. In most films, social issues are usually one-line throwaways and poorly developed subplots which do little to help real world issues. If Starbucks has learned anything from their past failures, it’s that traditional distribution is the worst thing for films of this type. To this end, their video content marketing company can try to pitch their videos directly to the people who will appreciate it the most.

Developing An Audience Around Social Issues

Starbucks content has to be of a high quality and at the same time must highlight the issues they are championing without alienating some its users. Finding balance in content is difficult at the best of times, but doing so in the case of social issues can be even more difficult since these issues are usually inherently tied to political alignment. Starbucks needs to find the balance in these issues and present it in a simple to understand way to its audience.

By virtue of the wide demographic that it can draw on, Starbucks has in its hands the plan for a content marketing company that is unlike any other. They are utilizing a brand new channel in order to build their brand but at the same time they are embarking on a brand new paradigm for content for multinational companies. Only time will tell if their gamble will pay off. Based on the example of other large companies, however, once their content is up to a high enough standard, we could very well be seeing the birth of a company that could take Starbucks into the twenty first century.


Julia McCoy is a serial content marketer, entrepreneur, and bestselling author. She founded a multi-million dollar content agency, Express Writers, with nothing more than $75 at 19 years old. Today, her team has nearly 100 expert content creators on staff, and serves thousands of clients around the world. She's earned her way to the top 30 worldwide content marketers, and has a passion for sharing what she knows in her books and in her online course, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course. Julia also hosts The Write Podcast on iTunes.