Case Study / Starbucks

Brewing Up a New Brand Pillar

Person holding a starbucks coffee cup



Proving that a Premium Brew is Cool Beans

When a recession hits, consumers’ loyalty to products priced at a premium is tested – and it’s the daily purchases that are scrutinized most closely. After all, when money’s tight, it’s easy for customers to suddenly convince themselves that a lower-cost brand of coffee magically tastes better.

Here’s how we helped Starbucks define one of its brand values more visibly to bolster consumer loyalty.


Worth the Grind

The worst economic downturn since the Great Depression had put millions of Americans out of work and millions more on tightened budgets. For the average Joe and Jane, this meant the morning stop at Starbucks on the way to the office had suddenly changed from a daily routine to an unnecessary luxury as households across the country retrenched to ride out the storm.

So, how could Starbucks prove to its customers that its premium beans were worth the economic grind?


Loyalty Through Values

Brand patronage may originate from product or price, but loyalty is preserved through values. People love great brands for reasons that transcend those brands’ products: They admire what great companies stand for.

Specifically, at Starbucks, customers aren’t simply paying for a cup of coffee. They’re paying for a cup of coffee from a brand that holds the same values that they do.


Making Brand Values Recession-Proof

A core component of Starbucks’ brand values is represented by its Shared Planet initiative. However, this pillar remained poorly defined and under-represented in the online space. We decided to change that by bringing Starbucks’ charitable initiatives out into the open and making them more consumer-facing.


Philanthropy Made Visible

Starbucks Social Responsibility Report has long been widely regarded as one of the best and most transparent reporting tools around, but the brilliant environmental and community-focused initiatives it contains never reached consumers’ awareness.

So, we redesigned the Shared Planet experience to broadcast the stories of responsible corporate citizenship that used to be buried in an annual report across online and retail channels.

Our CSR experience integrates existing initiatives into the Shared Planet experience. An interactive map provides a rich dive into Starbucks’ ethical sourcing and features projects at partner farms.

Short documentaries capture background stories on specific areas and Starbucks’ role in improving local conditions.

The Community Involvement Center demonstrates how Starbucks’ Shared Planet participates in communities around the world.

The revamped CSR experience enables visitors to compile customizable, downloadable versions of the report based around areas of personal interest.

When it comes to sustainability, Starbucks offers more than meets the eye. So we shared information about some of its less-known innovations, like its “green stores” and eco-friendly bean sourcing.

For the first time, consumers got to experience the full scope of Starbucks’ Shared Planet pillar. We demonstrated that their extra dollars and cents were delivering a lot more than just premium coffee – a compelling reason to keep sipping Starbucks.

Shared Planet became an evergreen part of Starbucks’ commitment, providing the hub for consumer education, Global Responsibility Report access and for funneling interest into volunteer programs.


Volunteer Hours Generated in 30 days


Addy Awards


Additional Industry Awards (Omni, Web, Webby, Comm Arts, IMA, W3)

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