Starbucks vs Oxfam on YouTube–this is how reputation battles will be fought on 07

January 2, 2007

If you want to see a preview of how reputation battles will be fought in the near future, just look at Oxfam vs. Starbucks. Oxfam posted a video on YouTube on December 16 that vigorously attacked Starbucks for its policies relating to Ethiopian farmers. They showed a number of on the street interviews with people who were shocked at Starbucks terrible policies–using of course the information that the activists had provided them. (This in itself is a very troubling and unethical approach–give people misinformation and then ask them what they think about it and then put them on camera denouncing the horrible company).

Starbucks responded on December 20 with their response to the accusations with a video posted on YouTube. It was not slickly produced. Not nearly as intensely produced and edited as the Oxfam video because frankly, the people making the accusation have a lot more time to produce than those responding. But Starbucks responded quickly and effectively. They took the accusations straight on. No anger. No defensiveness. Just corrected the wrong information and the overly simplistic accusations.

And it was all done on YouTube. What does the blog world think of this? Here’s a comment from a blogger on slashdot: Regardless of the outcome of this particular incident, the move on Starbucks’ part comes off as unmistakably in touch with today’s communication modes and methods.”

I agree. Starbucks gets it. And Oxfam and other activists had better take note of a basic and increasingly important law of public information: credibility is everything. From this observer’s point of view, their credibility is quite low right now.

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4 Responses to “Starbucks vs Oxfam on YouTube–this is how reputation battles will be fought on 07”

  1. Stuart Says:

    This is an interesting piece. It fits with the worldview that everything old is new again.

    While this is about blogging, viral videos and Youtube, it is really an extension of the idea that you respond in the medium in which you were attacked. If Rush Limbaugh attacks you on the radio, you don’t respond with a full page ad in the New York Times. If a poorly funded opponent hits you in an interview with the City Paper, don’t buy saturation amounts of TV ads, you respond in the City Paper. Likewise, if you reputation is attacked on YouTube, that’s where you respond. Not with a press release to the AP.

    Smart extension of a long-held principle.

  2. NewTeeVee » The Power of Telling it with Video Says:

    […] people. Bloggers wrote that the incident earned Starbucks the highest blogosphere merit badge: they “get […]


  3. […] KFC president speaks March 2nd, 2007 A few months ago it was new–now it seems common. Starbucks used YouTube to respond to the accusations of Oxfam, David Neeleman from JetBlue posted an apology video on […]


  4. […] run its course. This was probably a shrewd move, already tried and tested by JetBlue’s CEO and Starbucks in response to YouTube-powered […]


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