If there were an award for ill-conceived marketing campaigns, ‘Race Together‘ would earn the gold. Starbucks’ latest social justice endeavor that encouraged baristas to engage customers in conversations about race came to a resounding halt Sunday.
One week after its launch, the corporate coffee behemoth decided to cancel the first phase of ‘Race Together’ after receiving tremendous negative backlash.
Amazingly, consumers don’t enjoy being told they’re racist while ordering a cup of coffee. Who knew?
According to the Associated Press, ‘Race Together’ is not ending, it’s merely moving into the next marketing phase.
The campaign has been criticized as opportunistic and inappropriate, coming in the wake of racially charged events such as national protests over police killings of black males. Others questioned whether Starbucks workers could spark productive conversations about race while serving drinks.
The phase-out is not a reaction to that pushback, Olson said. “Nothing is changing. It’s all part of the cadence of the timeline we originally planned.”
He echoed the company memo, saying of the Race Together initiative, “We’re leaning into it hard.”
While customers won’t be badgered by baristas, Starbucks plans to move forward with ads in USA TODAY, in-store placards, and also plans to open more stores in minority communities, reports the AP.
Doubling down on a universally despised marketing campaign? Ok, then.
Business Insider posits that logistics killed ‘Race Together’, and not its tone-deaf message. Speaking as a former Starbucks barista (I worked for the coffee company while in college), I doubt that’s the case. Higher volume stores tend to deal with promotions differently than lower volume stores, but that simple fact was never cause for cancellation.
For the customers who fancy themselves enlightened, Starbucks passed about these nifty little racial quota tests.
(Yes, this is real life.)
— Hellix Marcelius (@hellixmarcelius) March 20, 2015
Ricochet’s Jon Gabriel expands on the problem with the worksheet, beyond the obvious of course. The supposition that their customer base parses social gatherings, social media feeds, and every other human encounter based on race is not only problematic (and one might argue inherently racist), but outright insulting to those who deal with people as people and not as racial objects meant for quota-filling.
So it’s not for logistical purposes or any ‘next phase of marketing’ that Race Together ceases to be. The public repudiation of coffee con race resulted in the flop of what is arguably the worst, most insulting marketing campaign in recent memory.
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