Brands and Social Issues: McIntire Professor Jeffrey Boichuk Presents Starbucks Case Study with Darden Colleagues

February 14, 2018

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Jeff Boichuk

What happens when major global brands like Starbucks resolve to share their beliefs on controversial social and political issues? 

McIntire Marketing Professor Jeffrey Boichuk teamed up with Darden School Professor Luca Cian, Professor Bidhan Parmar, and Senior Case Writer Jenny Craddock to examine how the industry-changing coffee company and other massive consumer-facing corporate entities are making their values known—for better or worse. Their discussion on the topic appeared in the Jan. 28, 2018, edition of The Washington Post under Darden’s sponsored editorial section, “Case in Point.” 

Using Starbucks and its CEO Kevin Johnson as a focus, their piece shows the thorny decisions the current chief executive continues to face as he follows the staunchly progressive and outspoken ways of his predecessor and two-time CEO Howard Schultz. Starbucks’ choice to weigh in on hot topics isn’t unique to the Seattle-based powerhouse with over 25,000 locations: The article touches on other brands attempting to stand for more impactful ideas that range beyond their products and the experiences they provide through them. 

Explaining how stakeholder analyses and small-scale experiments can help to measure the potential for business-wide support and minimize backlash, the team acknowledges the dangers of taking a position in the culture wars when serving a customer base of 90 million people per week. 

Read the full Washington Post article.