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Backlash Of Brands – Starbucks Customer’s Cop Shop Visit [Update]

I'm SorryWe are back for another edition of Backlash Of Brands, where we take a look at which brands are currently faced with a crisis management issue, or having a “opps” moment that is making headlines.  In this edition we will take a look at Starbucks.


According to their website, Starbucks; was honored as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies by the Ethisphere Institute, but two men in Philadelphia might argue differently about the brand. Last Thursday two men walked into a Starbucks in downtown Philadelphia, asked to use the washroom and were denied by an employee because the men did not make a purchase.The men were asked to leave, and when they declined, the employee called the police.

CEO Kevin Johnson apologized to two black men arrested at a Philadelphia store on Thursday. The men were denied restroom access because they hadn’t made a purchase; when they declined to leave, an employee called the police. A video of the incident has been viewed on Twitter nearly 10 million times. Johnson, calling the incident “disheartening” and the outcome “reprehensible,” has vowed to investigate and evaluate changes to company policy and training

While Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson has since issued an apology, damage to the brand has already been done.   A protest was launched outside the Starbucks location, numerous news outlets picked up the story and interviewed the men who were arrested, and the video shot by a woman in the Starbucks has been seen close to 10 million times (see below).

Starbucks issued an apology on Twitter Saturday afternoon, and #BoycottStarbucks became a trending hashtag on social media.

Commissioner Richard Ross Jr. of the Philadelphia Police Department issued the following video statement:

#BoycottStarbucks Takeaways

  • Media Monitoring: Monitor your brand (in real time) – there are a number of good tools on the market monitor your brand
  • Crisis Management: Have a crisis management plan ready; make sure that your company spokesperson responds in a timely manner
  • Employee training: Walk the walk especially when your brand wants to be known as ethical then it is imperative all of your staff also adhere to being the best possible ethical representatives of your brand promise

Update: Starbucks announced it plans to to close all company-owned stores in the United States on the afternoon of May 29 for racial-bias education day. As part of the day, Starbucks will provide training to 175,000 employees and address implicit bias, promote inclusion and help prevent discrimination.


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