Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schultz, who does an awful lot right as a business person and brand builder, issued a mea culpa in newspapers across the country today for the racially biased incident in one of his Philadelphia stores this past winter. At great expense, Starbucks will close stores today for a half day and provide sensitivity training to all employees. His letter was heartfelt and nicely coiffed, but right out of the PR play book. (No doubt, we all need to be more sensitive to race, gender and sexual proclivity… and we could all use a little training. It’s the biggest global issue of the day.)
But it’s my belief Mr. Shultz should have used a different tactic to “prove” the company’s commitment to improving race relations and sensitivity. He could have hired more black people. Put a race sensitivity suggestion box in the stores. Developed a new customer greeting that celebrated inclusion. More inclusive store artwork. Changed a business behavior.
The apology letter is nice but consumers are inured to the tactic. It has become a check box. Training, too, is good but it’s a one-timer.
This is complex shit. But a good coffee is complex and you figured that out. Do Better Mr. Schultz.