Case Studies

Starbucks: Transforming the Brand With a Global Public Affairs Campaign

Charged with demonstrating Starbucks’ return to its core values and operational strength, Edelman activated a five-phase plan to re-engage stakeholders and articulate a clear path forward. Edelman linked stakeholders to significant Starbucks events including its 40th anniversary, a new brand logo that signaled a change to more than just a coffee company and five months of special events.

Thanks in part to the campaign, Starbucks revenues reached a record $11.7 billion for the fiscal year, representing an 11 percent increase over the previous year. Additionally, the brand saw a 40 percent rise in brand favorability by consumers; earned 2.7 billion media impressions and more than 70 days of sustained coverage in 24 countries; and scored coverage that trumped competitors by 18 percent, boosting share of voice 15 percent year over year.

Following the economic crisis in 2008, Starbucks posted its slowest two years of growth in its 40-year history. By the fall of 2010, Starbucks needed to demonstrate financial health, a global recommitment to the company’s founding values, a plan for intelligent growth and a clear vision for the future to its customers and employees, dubbed “partners” by the company. To fully transform the brand and return the company to a position of operational strength, Starbucks also needed to succeed in rolling out an evolved brand look as other prominent companies were failing at a similar mission.

The team defined the campaign objectives as:


  • Align all stakeholders with Starbucks’ vision for the company moving forward
  • Achieve more than 75 percent message penetration in coverage to communicate Starbucks’ future goals effectively


  • Demonstrate Starbucks’ recommitment to its core vision, mission and values while enhancing brand quality
  • Increase Starbucks’ brand favorability among customers and partners


  • Revitalize employee, stakeholder and customer connections with the brand through engagement
  • Establish Onward, CEO Howard Schultz’s account of Starbucks’ turnaround, as a business must-read


Customer research revealed a drop in engagement in the brand among stakeholders globally. Consumers needed a revitalized connection with the brand to align with its future vision. To guarantee a successful campaign, Starbucks needed to prove its recommitment to its core vision and enliven its brand identity, promotional products and community programs through tactics that involved partners, customers and shareholders.

Working with Edelman’s research arm, Edelman Berland, the team conducted the following strategic initiatives to develop the campaign, inform strategy and measure the impact on key outcomes throughout:

  • A series of surveys for U.S. adult coffee drinkers benchmarked consumer sentiment and the campaign’s impact on consumer awareness and perception
  • A review of other brand refresh initiatives and important takeaways
  • Ongoing media analysis benchmarked share of voice, media relevance, tone, message pull-through and reach before and throughout the campaign

Through audience and conversation analysis, Starbucks identified several global stakeholder audiences with which to engage over the course of the campaign:

  • Partners, who needed to be recognized for their role in the company’s turnaround and their enthusiasm about its future
  • Shareholders, financial analysts and business enthusiasts, who needed to be engaged with the rebranding launch and convinced that Onward was a must-read
  • Customers, who needed to be activated to ensure awareness and excitement about the company’s fresh look and products

To relate Starbucks’ story of growth, transformation and connection and to align stakeholders with the company’s vision for the next 40 years, the brand first needed to give each of its stakeholder groups a reason to trust the company, reigniting passion and loyalty. The guiding strategies for the campaign were:

Articulate intelligent GROWTH strategies

  • Unveil a global strategy showcasing retail, consumer packaged goods and digital platforms and position the company’s future growth

Demonstrate Starbucks TRANSFORMATION

  • Unveil a new brand evolution model and logo
  • Reclaim what Starbucks does best—elevating the espresso, food and coffee experience and reinforcing that everything Starbucks creates is artfully handcrafted

Create moments of personal CONNECTION

  • Thank partners and customers for being a part of the last 40 years, paying tribute to their role in Starbucks’ history
  • Give back to communities in which Starbucks does business, inspiring a spirit of service
  • Engage business and financial influencers for candid conversation in business environments
  • Reconnect all stakeholders to Starbucks’ mission and values through live engagement and social media integration every step of the way

A phased approach for announcing each brand change and campaign component allowed Starbucks to tell a cohesive brand-evolution story, while establishing conversation and meaningful connections with influencers in each stakeholder group.

  • BLUEPRINT FOR GROWTH: Through the Investor Conference, annual shareholders’ meeting and Q2 earnings call, Starbucks laid the groundwork for its Blueprint for Growth plan, showcasing its innovative business model that links retail, consumer packaged goods and digital divisions to drive growth
  • BRAND EVOLUTION: The brand evolution model and new logo launched internally with partners before it was revealed publicly to kick off the 40th anniversary
  • 40TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION: Brand evolution came to life in stores through new cups, logo unveil events in five cities worldwide and Starbucks’ first global food and beverage launch
  • ONWARD BOOK TOUR: CEO Schultz connected with 10,000+ business influencers and consumers through a 16-market book tour, sharing the story of Starbucks’ transformation at speaking events and book signings
  • PARTNER WORLD TOUR: 10,000+ partners engaged with Schultz at each stop on the 16-city world tour, which featured a town-hall style meeting where partners could ask candid questions and share feedback
  • GLOBAL MONTH OF SERVICE: Starbucks partnered with NGOs globally to organize the largest community-service effort in company history with 1,400+ service events worldwide and six PR-driven marquee events




  • Rising Above Competitors: Starbucks coverage during a five-month period trumped competitors by 18 percent, increasing share of voice 15 percent over the previous year
  • Retail Location Awareness: 11 percent increase in top-of–mind awareness—more than any other competitive brand


  • Brand Relevancy: 14 percent increase in consumers who believe “(Starbucks) is for someone like me”
  • Brand Favorability: Consumers: 40 percent increase in brand favorability following what they had read, seen or heard about Starbucks’ brand evolution.  Partners: 87 percent increase in brand favorability following participation in the Partner World Tour
  • Brand Quality: Increased perceptions of “high quality” put the brand 15 percent ahead of its nearest competitor


  • Inspired Communities: Nearly one in four believes “Starbucks is a valued part of my community”—up 9 percent since launch
  • Onward No.1 Bestseller: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Barnes & Noble
  • Media Saturation: Generated 2.7+ billion media impressions and 70+ days of sustained coverage in 24 countries, including feature coverage in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, Asahi BE (Japan)  and on CBS “Sunday Morning,” NPR, CNN and CNBC
  • Messages Resonate: 94 percent of coverage neutral to positive in tone; 84 percent message penetration overall
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