COM302 – TMA01: Starbucks (Corporate Communication)

As a globally recognised brand, Starbucks serves not only coffee but a consistent restaurant experience too. Their mission statement: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time”, speaks of their commitment to empowering people and communities (Culture and values, n.d.). The Starbucks identity is collectively made up of their coffee, dining-in experience, and mission statement among other tangible and intangible values. With meticulous attention to detail and care taken across its communication channels, Starbucks consistently engages with six stakeholder groups through various touchpoints, programmes, and initiatives (Thompson, 2017). Such concern for stakeholder management sees Starbucks regularly secure high spots in global brand rankings. Brand Finance (2019) puts Starbucks as the world’s most valuable restaurant brand in the food and beverage sector; That is no mean feat and is the result of stakeholder care and management that ultimately built the Starbucks brand. Through further analysis of the stakeholder initiatives, it is possible to glean how Starbucks engages with various groups and integrates them into its identity.

 Starbucks recognises that employees form the core of their organisation. Hence, it projects a welcoming and inclusive identity through adopting an employee-first approach. They term their baristas as “partners” rather than “employees”. The same approach also sees Starbucks offering a host of benefits such as discounted company stock, affiliate discounts, programme fundings, free weekly coffee and tea, among many more perks. Starbucks exemplifies the traits of cultural inclusion and diversity by hiring across the board, regardless of disability, religion, age, race, sexual orientation or ethnicity (Goy, 2014; Starbucks is recognised, 2015). The coffeehouse’s identity is imbued with empowering their employees as one of the main stakeholders.

Starbucks also values the relationship that they have with their suppliers as another key stakeholder. Part of their identity involves being a responsible corporate and social citizen. To that end, Starbucks purchases ethically sourced coffee and has invested over $100 million into coffee communities (Responsibly grown, n.d.). In line with making coffee the first sustainable agricultural product, Starbucks committed to its corporate social responsibility efforts by supporting farmer loans and forest carbon projects; The coffeehouse aims to improve the lives of farmers while ensuring that the industry can sustain itself. Through sustainability initiatives, Starbucks can alleviate government and investor concerns on negative environmental impact. These projects also put Starbucks in good standing towards stakeholders at all levels by signalling that they are a brand that cares about their suppliers, community, and environment. By embodying an open culture that is as much for the community as it is for profit, Starbucks shares news and developments through investor relations. These actions solidify the Starbucks brand identity and mark them as a responsible corporate citizen.

Out of 100 brands, Starbucks sits at rank 48 in the Interbrand (2019) global rankings. In 2018, it was named the “fifth most admired company worldwide” (Starbucks named fifth, 2018). While these rankings are subjective to interpretation, they are also a testament to Starbucks’ strong alignment of its brand identity, image, and reputation. The Starbucks brand comprises several overarching statements that steer the coffeehouse into driving different initiatives and exerting its presence over the world. Overall, Starbucks’ brand identity is aligned with its image in some areas. However, Starbucks can also shore up other aspects that are lacking, especially when it suffered damage to its reputation due to a mismanaged incident in 2018.

Starbucks prides itself on being an inclusive and barrier-free organisation. In that regard, Starbucks demonstrated its commitment to hiring persons with disabilities. The coffeehouse chain attained a perfect score out of 100 in a disability survey (Starbucks is recognised, 2015). Furthermore, Starbucks trains their partners on community inclusion and accessibility (Starbucks commitment to access, 2015). Partners attend customer service training, and receive access to sign language interpreters if required. Much effort is made to ensure their stores are accessible to persons with disabilities. Finally, Starbucks is also “represented on the Northwest ADA Advisory Board”.

Next, Starbucks aims to also completely purchase coffee that is ethically sourced from farmers. These actions help align the public image of Starbucks with its identity as an ethical organisation. Granted, it is one move out of many that Starbucks can take, but it is a focused decision nonetheless. Additionally, Starbucks releases annual “Global Social Impact” reports on their website that details the plans, initiatives, and programmes that deliver social good to its community and partners (Global social impact, 2020). 

These reports, sourcing decisions, and its display of commitment to social inclusion help align the public image of Starbucks with its identity as an ethical and inclusive organisation. It is vital to note that Starbucks executes decisions on a global scale which also highlights the challenges that the global powerhouse must continually surmount to realise its brand alignment. Therefore, with over 30,000 worldwide stores, its brand alignment is not perfect and still incomplete.

Nevertheless, the company can work on and further align its identity with its image and reputation by strengthening its commitment to corporate and social responsibility. Starbucks can embark on a corporate advertising strategy by announcing that they will take greater strides towards becoming an organisation that fully embraces diversity and inclusivity. This is in line with their core brand values of building a culture of belonging and welcoming. The key objectives for this campaign are to firmly root Starbucks as the employer of choice in unbiased hiring practices, demonstrate support for vulnerable and marginalised communities, and imbue their cafes with a culture of belonging, diversity, and inclusivity as key tenets (Kim, 2017). This is a corporate strategy following the wake of an unpleasant incident in 2018 where two African-American men were handcuffed and escorted out of a store. Subsequently, Starbucks received a barrage of negative opinions and reviews. The CEO would go on to shut down stores “for one day of ‘racial bias training’” (Kanmetz, 2018).

Still, to regain public goodwill since that event, Starbucks can signal and strengthen its commitment to embracing cultural diversity and change through social media campaigns and in-store posters that assert its stance by hinging on a tagline: “We are committed to social good through coffee”. Starbucks can execute global campaigns across media channels such as on their website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram feeds, and also include full page advertisements in mainstream newspapers. All visual media will feature judicious use of its corporate green colour and logo to align its brand and identity.

Next, Starbucks will release a series of articles on their website that details how they plan to achieve social good. Starbucks partners and employees will attend racial and gender sensitivity training, courses on disability awareness, and basic sign language courses in their respective countries. Starbucks will document these partner activities and upload write-ups and videos with subtitles in various languages. The individual actions all act to synchronise its commitment to social and corporate responsibility.

11 North Buona Vista Drive

#03-08 The Metropolis Tower 2

Singapore 138589

For Immediate Release


(Singapore, 22 September, 2020) – Starbucks announced that it will open the first Singapore signing store at Suntec City on the 1st of December, 2020. A full team of Deaf and Hard-of-hearing coffee baristas fluent in Singapore Sign Language (SgSL) will run the cafe. For the first month, the first 65 customers every day will enjoy a 65% discount off any coffee or tea from the in-store menu. Customers who sign their order can also have talented Deaf baristas create unique sign language latte art.

Starbucks understands accessibility challenges. Customers can make their orders through several ways: Sign language, user-friendly touchscreens at the counter, pointing at menu-cards, writing on digital tablets, or gesturing. The Singapore signing store also features reinforced glass partitions in place of pillars so as to offer unobstructed views across the store, along with mirrors across all walls to enhance visibility for all. The cafe only uses round tables that allow sign language users to readily communicate with one another without constant head turning. All furniture is also spaced wider apart to allow wheelchair users ease of movement. Starbucks designed the store through extensive customer feedback and from working with Deaf and hard-of-hearing partners over the years and across countries.

Starbucks supports local Deaf and Hard-of-hearing artists. Customers can purchase the first-of-its-kind Starbucks merchandise in Singapore such as coasters, cups, bottles, and tote bags that feature printed SgSL signs. The Singapore signing store features beautiful hand-painted wall murals and artworks. All merchandise designs and artworks were commissioned by Starbucks working together with Singaporean Deaf and Hard-of-hearing artists: Isaac Liang, Chen Ziyue, Yew Hau En, and Mimi Ng.

Starbucks is fully committed to honouring and promoting equity, diversity, inclusivity, and accessibility. As such, Starbucks consulted The Singapore Association for the Deaf, Equal Dreams, Touch Silent Club, and ExtraOrdinary Horizons. The Singapore signing store was the result of over 3 years of collaboration and love for the community. Customers can expect a Starbucks experience that is not only fully accessible to the Deaf and Hard-of-hearing community, but also open to persons with disabilities.

As the world’s favourite coffeehouse, Starbucks regularly claims global top brand rankings. In 2016, Starbucks opened the first signing store in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Since then,  more signing stores have opened around the world with the Singapore signing store being the sixth cafe that celebrates and embraces sign language. Starbucks signing stores promise the same great coffee experience that customers have come to love and expect.


For more information, kindly contact:

Ms Jennifer Low

Corporate Communications Executive
Office: (65) 6513 7500
Fax: (65) 6513 7550



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