Starbucks: PR or Marketing?

Starbucks: PR or Marketing?


Let’s talk about Starbucks. Bill Gates was once quoted as saying, “If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.” Starbucks has invested well, their dollars on PR! Well what is PR? It is good works well publicized.

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Starbucks Corporation is an American multinational chain of coffeehouses and roastery reserves headquartered in Seattle, Washington. It is the world’s largest coffeehouse chain. As of November 2021, the company had 33,833 stores in 80 countries, 15,444 of which were located in the United States. As of 2021, there were 1,376 Starbucks in Canada.

Their reported revenue for 2021 was $29.06 billion USD. Not bad!
As a comparison, in 2019, Dunkin’ Donuts reported $1.37 billion USD in revenues and Tim Hortons reported $6.72 billion CAD. What a difference!

There is something Starbucks is doing, likely many things overall, but let’s focus on just one important thing for this article.

In early 2016, the coffee giant Starbucks decided they wanted to donate all the leftover food to people in need. That’s right, 100% — every single unused food item from all 7,600 U.S. stores. Starbucks already donates all of its unsold pastries, but as CEO Howard Schultz explained, expanding the generosity to perishable food items took some planning. “There are a lot of regulations, and I would say for the right reasons because the municipalities are just trying to make sure the food is safe to eat,” Schultz told CNN. “Through a new partnership with Feeding America, refrigerated trucks will collect all unsold perishable food items and give them to those in need.” 

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According to Feeding America, a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks, a lot of people are in need. In fact, one in seven Americans struggles with hunger. The Seattle-based coffee chain joins other big-name food brands like Chipotle, Olive Garden, and Yum, who also donate unsold leftovers.

They were also counted among’s best places to work in 2017.

As a side note, and to compare another great customer we’ve worked with; I’ve known the owner of Mr. Rooter in Toronto, since 1993. I really respect him and what he has created for himself and his staff, and the service he has provided in the Greater Toronto Area for many years. He once told me, “I realized a long time ago, that keeping my staff happy and taking care of them was actually my job.” He then went on to give me some examples of what he has done, such as the company managers cooking breakfast for all the staff every Thursday!

This is something Starbucks does. They take care of their staff, their families, and the rest of us at the same time while providing a premium product.

When I was growing up, McDonald’s was all about catering to kids and their Ronald McDonald House Charity. I fondly remember many McDonald’s birthday parties when I was growing up. Taking the kids there for an outing, seemed to be what many parents had in mind. PR at work. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard anything about the Ronald McDonald House in a long time. What I have heard a lot of is coffee for $1, or coffee and a muffin for $2.79. Yes, lots of marketing, but from my observation their PR has dwindled.

Comparatively, we don’t ever see Starbucks offering their coffees and muffins for a low price to get you in. It’s all Public Relations work for Starbucks, which has turned out rather nicely for them statistically hasn’t it?

PR always comes first. It greases the gears for marketing to work. Many companies only market, with specials, offers, benefits, etc., but there is so much more to it with PR.

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Starbucks has done an outstanding job of PR. Now, when they launch a marketing campaign, millions of loyal customers along with new ones will listen.

Their PR has worked so well that the brand loyalty is what drives their revenue, not advertising. Brilliant!

My takeaways:

  • Get some PR going for your company
  • Take care of your staff
  • Have great products
  • Take good care of your clients
  • Promote your PR work with social media, videos, your website, SEO, Google Ads, etc. Get your PR out everywhere!

At DIT Web Solutions, although we are not a PR company, we have several PR companies in our network that we can consult with for your next campaign. To promote your great work you’ll need social media, videos, YouTube ads, Google Ads, etc. Our team is well-equipped to get your good works well publicized!

Call me today for your free consultation and let’s get your business well known!

Book your free Strategy Chat with Senior Partner,
Louie Pateropoulos.

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