Big Apple 2011 Best Use of Research Award

Last week I presented the Best Use of Research, Measurement and Evaluation Award at the PRSA New York chapter’s Big Apple Awards.  Starbucks and Edelman took the prize for “Starbucks Coffee Company Earth Month.”

When a customer substitutes a reusable mug for a paper cup, Starbucks says that can save seven trees per year.  With Starbucks serving up more than four billion cups a year, there’s real potential for reducing environmental impact.  The team used a multi-faced research brew as deep and rich as any espresso.

  • The environment is now the top social cause for consumers, nearly two-thirds of whom put more trust in a brand that is ethically and socially responsible.
  • Customers were already starting to engage with Starbucks on reusable mugs.   The number of uses in 2009 jumped by 4.4 million compared to 2008.  “Recycling” and “cups” are the top two social responsibility items surfacing on
  • Audiences need to hear company information three to five times before it’s credible.  Multiple sources enhance credibility.  Academics and NGOs are the most credible sources.
  • Based on available demographics and other data, the audiences could be targeted as “light green” (environmentally conscious customers who might respond to a retail promotion), “dark green” (influencers who care enough about such topics to help raise awareness), and “general green” (employees/partners who would be making the program happen).

The planning research drove clear measurable objectives, strategy and milestones.  The program aimed to inspire U.S. customers and stakeholders to join Starbucks in reducing waste while advancing awareness of the company’s environmental leadership.  The strategy revolved around key milestones such as free coffee to customers using their own mugs, issuance of the company’s Global Responsibility Report, a “Second Cup Summit” to promote Starbuck’s involvement in a comprehensive cup recycling solution, and a street event to celebrate the company’s first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) store in New York City.

So how did those measured results stand up to the plan?

  • 1.2 million customers participated in the tumbler/free coffee promotion on a single day.
  • Nearly 50,000 customers pledged to use their tumblers.
  • Customer perceptions of Starbucks as environmentally responsible rose from 57 to 80 percent.
  • The media coverage was 87 percent neutral to positive throughout the campaign, with almost 300 million impressions and more than 400 influencers engaging.

Four members of the Commission on Public Relations Measurement & Evaluation (Marianne Eisenmann, John Gilfeather, Frank Walton and Mark Weiner) served as judges.  One of them described the winning entry as simply “measuring to objectives” – which works when you have strong research preceding the program.  Congratulations to Edelman and Starbucks on winning the Institute’s 2011 Big Apple Best Use of Research, Measurement and Evaluation Award.

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One Comment

  1. Starbucks need to ensure their values are consistent across operations. The company has had a seemingly flippant attitude towards water useage and in other areas which also need to be addressed, for this to look like more than greenwashing.

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