While it’s highly likely that the shittiest, mainstream “coffee” brand is doing just wonderful in shallow, pragmatic and user-materialistic China, it has taken a huge hit in the more moral and individuality based American market.
About a month ago, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz decided to ‘take a stand’ in defiance of Trump’s immigration executive order and penned a message to the world vowing, among other things, to hire 10,000 refugees over the next 5 years and “build bridges, not walls, with Mexico”. Here are some excerpts from the politically charged message drafted by Schultz with “deep concern and a heavy heart”:
I write to you today with deep concern, a heavy heart and a resolute promise. Let me begin with the news that is immediately in front of us: we have all been witness to the confusion, surprise and opposition to the Executive Order that President Trump issued on Friday, effectively banning people from several predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States, including refugees fleeing wars. I can assure you that our Partner Resources team has been in direct contact with the partners who are impacted by this immigration ban, and we are doing everything possible to support and help them to navigate through this confusing period.
Hiring Refugees: We have a long history of hiring young people looking for opportunities and a pathway to a new life around the world. This is why we are doubling down on this commitment by working with our equity market employees as well as joint venture and licensed market partners in a concerted effort to welcome and seek opportunities for those fleeing war, violence, persecution and discrimination. There are more than 65 million citizens of the world recognized as refugees by the United Nations, and we are developing plans to hire 10,000 of them over five years in the 75 countries around the world where Starbucks does business.
Building Bridges, Not Walls, With Mexico: We have been open for business in Mexico since 2002, and have since opened almost 600 stores in 60 cities across the country, which together employ over 7,000 Mexican partners who proudly wear the green apron. Coffee is what unites our common heritage, and as I told Alberto Torrado, the leader of our partnership with Alsea in Mexico, we stand ready to help and support our Mexican customers, partners and their families as they navigate what impact proposed trade sanctions, immigration restrictions and taxes might have on their business and their trust of Americans.
Unfortunately, Schultz quickly found out the hard way that while most adult-aged Americans can agree that they like coffee, roughly 50% disagree with his leftist political opinions. Which, according to Yahoo Finance, has sent the company’s “brand perception” into a downward spiral since January 29th.
The coffee giant’s consumer perception levels have fallen by two-thirds since late January, according to YouGov BrandIndex.
The perception tracker measures if respondents have “heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative.” In Starbucks’ case, perception is still overall positive, but significantly lower than it was prior to CEO Howard Schultz published a public letter outlining the company’s plans to give refugees jobs.
YouGov says that there’s reason to believe backlash will impact the chain’s bottom line. Two days before Starbucks’ announcement, 30% of consumers said they’d consider buying from Starbucks the next time they were craving coffee, the highest proportion in nearly a year. Now, the percentage is down to 24%, according to YouGov.
Of course, this isn’t the only time Starbucks has alienated customers by publicly pursuing a controversial political agenda. As we noted back in March 2015, the Company was forced to abandon its “Race Together” campaign that was intended “to be a catalyst for a larger conversation on race” relations in the United States but really just served to piss off a bunch of anxious people eager to grab their cup of coffee and be on their way.