Starbucks Shared Planet Tumblers and Marketing

Thank you to Crystal and Ally for these images.

Starbucks Shared Planet. You and Starbucks. It’s bigger than coffee. Use a tumbler. You’ll save 10 cents and another paper cup everytime. But you are buying some plastic material that doesn’t exactly biodegrade (It is, however, 29% post-consumer recycled material). Starbucks is making a ton of money off you when you buy the tumbler and they save extra money when they don’t need to order in as many paper cups. Not that I think it’s a bad idea to use your own coffee mug or a “tumbler.” The Starbucks verbage commands me to “USE A TUMBLER” and by obeying I am apparently doing my part to keep things green and being socially and environmentally conscious. What seems to actually be happenig in this particular campaign is that Starbucks is simply trying to create consumers who don’t think for themselves and feel that by making Starbucks more money they have somehow contributed their part in making the world a better place. I think Starbucks is doing some interesting things with their Shared Planet program, but their marketing campaign is confusing because it seems controlling. Allow me to explain a little:

The Tumbler promotion is part of the Shared Planet campaign that Starbucks is currently running. The Shared Planet statement says, “It’s out commitment to doing business in ways that are good to the earth and to each other. From the way we buy our coffee, to trying to minimize our environmental footprint, to being involved in our local communities.” The statement on the sign then ends by getting you to feel good about your purchase. I’ve heard people say that you are making a guilt-free transaction, which subtly pushes you into buying their products and feeling guilty about buying anything other than their products. “Guilt-free” is not language that Starbucks uses, it is language I have heard used by other people.

On the Starbucks Shared Planet website, you can take the “Mug Pledge” where you will pledge to reuse your mug, or you can take a poll asking whether you will participate in Shared Planet by either (1) Reusing your mug or (2) volunteering in your community. So, if I volunteer in my community I am participating in Shared Planet? And if I reuse my cup I am participating in Shared Planet? This is good marketing because if you take it to it’s logical conclusion, if you volunteer or reuse your cup you may think of Starbucks…much the same way as it’s hard to disassociate the word “apple” with the computer brand of the same name. The problem is that it seems manipulative in that it’s claiming my actions as part of their campaign.

I’m not against Starbucks, I am confused and put-off by their marketing. I think they are doing some good things: “using [their] size for good.” The following links don’t have a whole lot to do with greening things up, but they are an interesting series of links that point out how difficult it is to get the whole story when it comes to Starbucks. The company sounds great sometimes; othertimes it sounds like they are hiding things. I don’t know what to think as a potential customer. I’m sure they are better than many, many other companies. It’s all confusing and overwhelming so I’ve just decided go with my local coffee shop.

-Starbucks opens a LEED certified coffee plant. That is good news in my opinion.
-Make Wealth History
points out the irony or trademarking “sharing.”
-The Times Online
points out a couple past discrepencies in Starbucks environmental and ethicals stances.
has a nice post calling Starbucks to “Honor [their] commitment to coffee farmers.” But that post was written in 2007.
-Starbucks doubles their purchasing of fairtrade coffee.
-Starbucks claims to deliver 100% responsibly grown, ethically traded.
Maybe it just depends on how you look at it all.