is starbucks’ good good?

Have you seen these?

It’s a little newspaper called The Good Sheet, available for free at your local Starbucks counter.  Every Thursday a new paper-napkin-sized issue is released — this week’s is about “where your money goes when you get gas” and when unfolded, reveals a USA-today style infographic on the topic (a factoid — 12% goes to taxes.)

OK, so what is GOOD?  According to their website (www.good.is), “GOOD is a collaboration of individuals, businesses, and nonprofits pushing the world forward.  Since 2006 we’ve been making a magazine, videos, and events for people who give a damn.”  Videos like “Dodgeball — The classic bully’s game is reborn” and “Eco-Gym — Manuel de Arriba Ares’ handmade, sustainable gimnasio ecológico.”  Blogs on topics ranging from the gender divide in contemporary non-fiction to a prank you can play on TSA airport baggage screeners.

Starbucks says, “Inspired by your feedback on My StarbucksIdea.com, we have partnered with our friends at GOOD to bring you current, thought-provoking topics that inspire conversation.”

According to a New York Times article about the effort, executives from Starbucks and Good said they do not intend the sheets to be partisan.  And yet, GOOD, the organization, clearly is (see “The ‘Mc’ in McCain” blog post.)

Plus, GOOD has partnered with a range of non-profits like Teach for America and accepts advertising from other brands (the gas dollar-breakout issue features a full page ad for Saturn.)

I don’t know what to think of this.  In one way, this appears to be just another Starbucks’ effort as an arbiter of culture — the company has produced CDs (through its HEAR Music division) and presented a film (Akeelah and the Bee). This kind of cultural engagement is an ambitious, and admirable goal for a brand.

On other hand, this seems to be a step into dangerous waters, engaging the brand in politics and controversy — a play which may work to bring salience and cachet to niche brands like Benetton but will most certainly alienate some people from a company that is trying to retain mass brand appeal and reinvigorate explosive growth.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Is GOOD good for Starbucks?

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