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March 24, 2008
Can Starbucks handle the truth?

Starbucks says it has embraced conversational marketing with the launch of a company blog and a social network -- two tools the coffee giant believes will help glean insight from its legions of over-caffeinated customers. But is the brand really listening? A recent article in AdAge suggests the answer is no.

With its new Ideas In Action blog, Starbucks claims to be interested in soliciting ideas for the brand from its consumers. But according to Starbucks Gossip, a blog not affiliated with the company, the coffee house hasn't heard much more than a call for free Wi-Fi and beverages.

"This site allows users to engage in other people's ideas and vote those that they like to the top," said Alexandra Wheeler, Starbucks director of digital strategy. "Also, if you think about it, for years, Starbucks stores have served as the center of vibrant communities, welcoming customers and encouraging creativity and dialogue."

But critics have said that the campaign is little more than a digital suggestion box, and some have argued that it's really just a corporate propaganda tool.

While corporate blogging has certainly become a reality in the last few years, and some brands like Dell have seen it pave the way to improved customer relations, many wonder if Starbucks has the fortitude to actually listen. While the platform has been good to brands willing to listen and make changes, some brands like Wal-Mart have courted disaster time and again in the blogosphere.    


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