SEATTLE: Starbucks has launched a campaign encouraging the public to get to know veterans and ask them "better questions."
Fewer Americans today know veterans than ever before, as less than 1% of the general population have served in the military, noted Virginia Bergin Tenpenny, Starbucks’ VP of global social impact.
To help bridge the gap between those who have and haven’t served, Starbucks is rolling out 30 and 60-second spots featuring veteran employees talking with co-workers.
As part of the campaign, the corporate website features a page listing suggested questions from its own internal veteran group, as well as the company’s partners: Team Red White and Blue, Blue Star Families, and Team Rubicon. Additionally, all U.S. Starbucks locations will offer cup sleeves honoring veterans.
Those organizations, including others such as United Service Organizations, The Mission Continues, and Got Your Six, helped inform Starbucks how it could "help change the conversation," Tenpenny told PRWeek.
Droga5 helped create the spots, which will air across the company’s digital channels, on social media, and on TV through mid-September. Spark Foundry planned the media, while Edelman supported comms. Starbucks’ internal creative studio designed the cup sleeves, print advertisements, and billboard placements.
The campaign follows the commitment the company made in 2013 to hire more veterans, Tenpenny said.
"What we saw internally between our partners was a really inspiring conversation to help people understand what it meant to serve and be a military spouse," she explained. "The goal of this campaign was to share that experience with more Americans."
Starbucks has hired more than 10,000 veterans and military spouses, and plans to hire 15,000 more by 2025 and open 100 stores run primarily by veterans and military spouses. Also, the company has 16 chapters within its Armed Forces Network, half of which are led by civilians.
The company also tracks retention rates for veterans, but it did not provide exact figures.
"Depending on the role within the company, our retention rate meets or exceeds industry average," said a Starbucks rep.
After Starbucks announced its veteran hiring initiative, it went about trying to build "veteran cultural competence" across its organization.
"We set up what we called ‘military immersions’ and created a military field guide that would help people understand [that experience]," Tenpenny said. "We had a series of videos and events that allowed the veterans to talk about the transition [to civilian life] and military spouses to talk about what it was like moving across the country and around the world."
One of the things Starbucks has learned from its hiring initiative over the past few years is that employees serving in the reserves were forced to use vacation time for their military service, Tenpenny said. So the company extended paid service for reserves-related activity.
Starbucks also partnered with Arizona State University, providing veterans and a family member the opportunity to gain a college degree pro bono.
At the end of 2016, Howard Schultz stepped down from the Starbucks CEO post and became executive chairman, while COO Kevin Johnson filled in as CEO.
The company launched a 10-part original content series last year called Upstanders to counter the "dysfunction [they] see out there engulfing" the U.S.