Let Go & Lead
Howard Schultz Founder & CEO
Starbucks

Community Building through Social Media (3:56)

HOWARD SCHULTZ:
There has been and continues to be a seismic change in consumer behavior, in many ways, because of the shift in how people are getting access to information.  And that information is the way in which people are leveraging social and digital media, which is so significantly different than any other time that I can think of.  I gave a speech last night and I said the only thing I can compare it to is when television came and replaced radio, and that was a seismic change in communication and access to information, and obviously entertainment.

We are now witnessing something else, in which the rules for engagement of any company, any brand, is no longer based on traditional media, marketing, advertising.  And as a result of that, I think companies have to recognize that they have to invest in and build a new capability and a new resource, and understanding how to engage with customers in a different way.

Now, most companies are rushing to judgment and believe this is a new channel to sell stuff.  And I think that is a dangerous and an inappropriate approach.  The channel has really been created for sharing of information, especially when it’s coming from a trusted friend.  And so if a company can become a trusted source of information, a trusted source of…not to sell something, but to share what the values of the company are about, to create awareness, to create [trial?], but not necessarily to ring the register.

And I think for us, we began to understand that for us to become highly relevant in this new digital age and to understand how young people were living their life, we had to shift the way in which we were going to communicate the equity of the brand, the experience, of Starbucks.  And as a result of that, we became best-of-class.  And it’s not an accident that we’re so relevant on Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, and other social and digital media sites.

And I think in terms of your question about letting go, I think there’s fear sometimes in embracing new technology or in some ways, allowing customers or the outside world to engage with your company and your brand in a way where you’re not in control.  And I think those companies that are holding on to the status quo are going to be left behind; that the new world of how information is shared with many other people, you can’t control it, even if you’re trying.  So I think it would be better to participate as opposed to dictating.” (p. 3-4)