Starbucks has a long-standing history of driving forward gender equality. A constant supporter of PRIDE, Starbucks also offers transgender staff in the U.S. health cover for transition surgeries whilst also soliciting the police to create ‘safe places’ for the LGBT+ community in their stores. Whilst this epitomised the progressive spirit of the brand, Starbucks’ efforts were lesser known in the U.K. At a time of socio-political turmoil, with the LGBT+ community experiencing the sharp end of division and hate crime, Starbucks saw a chance to re-ignite their values and lead the change in an area that needed it most. Creating a platform together with the transgender community and shining a light on their personal journeys of identity and acceptance, we set out to achieve two things: 1. Drive positive impact and change for the transgender community and 2. Re-invigorate Starbucks as a symbol of progress it always was.
Describe the cultural / social / political climate in your region and the significance of your campaign within this context
Take the likes of a Brexit deadlock, acts of terrorism and Donald Trump’s twitter feed and you have the recipe for growing tensions and the bitter taste of division. The outfall in the U.K. was ugly with all hate crimes rising to 17%. Whilst topics of race and religion are significant contributors, the brutal attack on a lesbian couple on the top deck of a London bus brought to the fore how marginalised and victimised the LGBT+ community were too. The LGBT+ community were reeling with 70% feeling unsafe and where the increase in attacks on the transgender community increased by an alarming 81%. It’s no surprise that in this climate of division, people longed for meaningful action over promises. Where most brands toe-the-line of popular consensus, Starbucks decided to use its presence and dig into its personal conviction, taking action where others weren’t and where change was needed the most. By bringing to life the value of identity acceptance amongst the transgender community and committing itself to supporting the community with Mermaids, a transgender charity, Starbucks was able to impact the lives of the few, to help change the minds of the many.
Describe the creative idea
‘What’s your name?’ is the epitome of the signature Starbucks act of asking your name, writing it down as given and calling it out. It’s a simple gesture that many of us perhaps take for granted, but for transgender people on the journey of self-identity, it is a real and significant act of recognition and welcome in the wider world. One that says: whoever you are or whoever you want to be, you are welcome. The ‘What’s your name’ campaign provides a platform for one of the most marginalised communities to proudly exclaim their chosen identity and, if they want to, tell their stories to inspire and support others. This together with tangible support for the transgender community fortifies Starbucks values of celebrating diversity and encouraging people to feel comfortable with who they are and who others choose to be.
Describe the strategy
The creative idea was rooted in a series of truths. The truth of a signature act; the truth of real experiences in transgender lives; and the truth of Starbucks’ committed support. Digging into the brand, we discovered that one of the most recognisable traits at Starbucks is their act of taking names and writing them on cups. At its simplest it’s an act of service, however in the context of diversity & inclusion, it’s an indiscriminate act of welcome. Talking to YouTube bloggers and to LGBT+ groups and charities, we discovered just how meaningful this act was to the transgender community. On the journey of self-identity where they often get ‘dead-named’ (incorrect use birthnames vs. chosen names), Starbucks was often a place where they would use their chosen name and have it welcomed comfortably, sometimes for the first time. Here, Starbucks had genuine permission to act.
Describe the execution
The campaign hinged on three fundamental parts. The first was a film for TV and Online that brought to life the very real story of a young transgender individual experiencing the challenges of dead-naming until he uses his chosen name at a Starbucks, which is warmly recognised to his delight. Given the story was of an experience common to many, the second component were a series of ‘moving portraits’ which brought to life further individual stories of real transgender people and their identities online. Underpinning all of this was perhaps the most fundamental part, which was the partnership with young transgender charity, Mermaids. A special edition cookie was created, from which sales would contribute to supporting the Mermaids helpline. Mermaids were also critical as a sounding board throughout the whole process offering a duty of care to all involved, providing support and advice around what can be a sensitive topic.
Describe the results / impact
Within 4 days of launch there were 210 global media mentions (99% positive) and potential social media reach was 135.8 million. Importantly, the positive response from the transgender community validated the cause was just and handled with integrity. Consumer engagement on Twitter & Facebook a week before the campaign was at 1,898 but increased to 4,045 during the first week of launch with a 7% increase in positive sentiment. TV viewing completion rates hit 97.75% against an industry benchmark of 63.10%. The ultimate intent was to offer real support; sales of the special Mermaids cookie are ongoing but will raise a minimum of £100,000 for the Mermaids charity, funding an extension of their helpline hours for 1 year+. The cookie sold out in the first week with production needing to be increased (48,000 sold in the first 2 weeks) and the helpline received 6X increase in calls in the week!