After just a week of its launch, Starbucks has brought an end to its controversial campaign called “Race Together.” The campaign, which was meant to raise awareness about racism and spark conversation among the baristas and customers, rather backfired by offending customers.
According to NPR, the idea came forth at a meeting held by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. Schultz said that the company couldn’t stand silent on the issue of race. The meeting was also attended by Starbucks employees.
The baristas were told to write “Race Together” on cups in an effort to initiate conversations on race. Unfortunately, customers felt like they were being told that they were racist and they certainly didn’t need to be told that while getting their morning coffee.
According to Komonews, many consumers said “it seemed opportunistic and inappropriate at a time of national protests over police killings of unarmed black men.”
Paul Argenti, professor of corporate communications at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, said in a statement to Komonews that the result of such actions can be unpredictable.
“You just don’t know what’s going to happen when you get out there and do something like this. To be focused on big issues is a great idea, but what’s the right venue? Not waiting in a rush line in the morning,” said Argenti.
However, according to The Washington Post, other aspects of the program, like forum discussions and special sections in USA Today, which has been on-going for a year now, will continue.
In a memo released to the public, Schultz said, “while there has been criticism of the initiative and I know this hasn’t been easy for any of you, let me assure you that we didn’t expect universal praise. The heart of Race Together has always been about humanity: the promise of the American Dream should be available to every person in this country, not just a select few. We leaned in because we believed that starting this dialogue is what matters most.”
The message of the campaign was meant to just be “the catalyst” for a conversation, considering race has been the most prominent headline in recent news and the topic of many discussions and debates.