I decided to write this story yesterday, but oddly enough, the quote in question ("The Way I See It #247") happens to be on my latte cup today. It questions why people turn to God instead of themselves during crises when God might not exist, and related news coverage centered around an Ohio woman who was offended to have been exposed to the quote. According to the Associated Press, a Starbucks spokeswoman said the thoughts and opinions in The Way I See It quotes are intended to hearken back to "the old coffeehouse tradition of thoughtful discussion" on topics. And while the Ohio woman in question is obviously a customer with an opinion, the originator of the quote is a customer, too (which is clearly stated on the cup, along with a disclaimer that the quote is the author's opinion and a URL where people can discuss and respond).
Personally, I hope Starbucks never feels pressured to only include quotes on their cups that offend no one. From Starbucks' branding perspective -- and including thought-provoking or inspiring quotes on its cups is branding, make no mistake -- it's not worth the ink to print something like "The sky is blue" on a cup. I've been reading Mavericks at Work by William C. Taylor and Polly LaBarre, and coincidentally, last night's dose of the book discussed the kind of customer participation that can help give a brand heart and soul. One interesting example was Jones Soda's
As frustrated as I might have been when I started writing this, I realized that me getting all high and mighty about other people getting all high and mighty about a quote on a disposable coffee cup would be, well, kind of lame. Actually, the Starbucks quote fracas may be doing exactly what it set out to do: It's spurring discussion and thought, and taking the chance that some people might boycott its establishment is a small price to pay for not diluting the experience Starbucks seeks to provide. (There was that whole soul thing, after all.) And of course, the nicest thing about discussion is that you don't have to agree with anyone's opinion.
Starbucks knows who its core customers are, and I doubt it's too concerned about controversy on this matter. For anybody who doesn't like the way somebody else sees it, I hear a whole slew of rivals like McDonald's