‘Avoiding #PRdebacles’: Integrity is the Key to Brand Campaigns That Never Backfire

August 22, 2015

When you visit, the “Responsibility” tab is front and center. Click on it, and you’ll find nearly 30 different links under headings such as “Community,” “Environment” and “Ethical Sourcing,” along with a 19-page Global Responsibility Report for those who would take an even deeper dive into the company’s practices. Starbucks, in other words, makes a real effort to walk the talk of responsibility. And yet, when the company launched its #RaceTogether campaign back in March, the mockery was swift and merciless. The plan, as we all remember, was for baristas to write “Race Together” on customers’ cups in an effort to spark dialog about race in America.

Unfortunately for Starbucks, #RaceTogether is now synonymous with #PRdebacles.

So what happened? How could Starbucks have gotten it so wrong? In the age of the self-aware consumer, brands have no choice but to engage with their customers on the issues of our time, right?

The risk lies in losing track of the all-important difference between integrity, an objective state of being, and the far-more-subjective sphere of morality/ethics. When brands focus on achieving the integrity of their purpose (making whole on their promise), these campaigns tend to get results. When brands stray into […]

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