[Week 9 Tute Preparation] Starbucks – Lessons Learned.

I’d like to start this week blog by discussing an example of a social media campaign held by Starbucks in 2009 that has gone sour (Brice 2009). The main idea of the campaign is to ‘leverage’ customers’ creativity to co–create new values for Starbucks (Brice 2009). Using the model of a ‘network’ provided by Knife Party in collaboration of Rayner and Robson (2010) in the video ‘Coalition of the Willing’, I would consider the Starbucks’ brand community a form of SOCIAL ORGANISATION whose key concept is participation and the end–goal is to create influence over larger organisations, i.e. the states (Murphie 2013, pp. 4). Starbucks’ idea of the campaign can be applied exactly to the notion of social organisation, where the commons ‘minimize harm and maximize authentic, sustainable, meaningful value’ (Bauwens 2011). Therefore, in the new social movement where the commons play a great role in creating and influencing values, capitalists appreciate the roles of social organisations in terms of providing from labour intensity to redefining social relations between the commons and the states (Sophie Ball, year not available, cited in Anonymous 2010). Such ideas may have been the drivers of Starbucks’ management decision to use the customers to generate new ideas for them.

As the video demonstrates, there are three main sites: the opensource reservoir, the idea generation room and the catalyst system (Knife Party, Rayner & Robson 2010). In this case study specifically, the first site includes new media tools, for examples, social platforms such as My Starbucks Idea Forum ( http://mystarbucksidea.force.com/ ) or Twitter (https://twitter.com/starbucks/ ). The ‘opensource’ is customers’ creativity. The idea generation room is where the customers contribute and discuss their innovative ideas. Finally, the Starbucks management team plays the catalysts who will analyse those ideas and make final decision.

It sounds like a great strategy.

But it seems like an open community does not function at all. Starbucks’ first mistake is mistaking normal customers with creators. Statistics show that only 21% of US adults has the ability to create while 35% are joiners who enjoy involving but actually useless (Forrester Research 2008, cited in Brice 2010). There are more than 50,000 ideas so far (My Starbucks Idea 2013), but how many of them are worth looking at? As Ostrom (2010) says, without any ‘shared norms’ and ‘rules’, or even institutions ‘to carry out their management roles’ (quoted in Korton 2010), the commons would be uncontrollable.

In short, the new government 2.0 opens many new possibilities for people to contribute to the community for its community–driven nature. However, this could not be mistaken as a non–government sphere. Ostrom justifies this as follows:

‘…[If] there’s conflict, you need an open, fair court system at a higher level than the people’s resource management unit. You also need institutions that provide accurate knowledge.’

(In Korton 2010)


Anonymous 2010, ‘Elinor Ostrom’, p2p foundation, accessed on 9 May 2013, < http://p2pfoundation.net/Elinor_Ostrom >.

Bauwens, M. 2011, ‘Book of the Week: Umair Haque’s New Capitalist Manifesto’, P2P Foundation: Researching, documenting and promoting peer to peer practices, 13 February, accessed on 9 May 2013, < http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/book-of-the-week-umair-haques-new-capitalist-manifesto/2011/02/13 >.

Brice, C.E. 2009, ‘Has Online Social Media Failed Starbucks?’, Social Media Today, 9 March, accessed on 9 May 2013, < http://socialmediatoday.com/index.php?q=SMC/78962 >.

Knife Party & Rayner, T. & Robson, S. 2010, Coalition of the Willing, online video, accessed on 9 May 2013, < http://coalitionofthewilling.org.uk/ >.

Korton, F. 2010, ‘No Panaceas! Elinor Ostrom Talks with Fran Korten’, Shareable, 28 March, accessed on 9 May 2013, < http://www.shareable.net/blog/no-panaceas-a-qa-with-elinor-ostrom >.

My Starbucks Idea 2013, My Starbucks Idea, USA, accessed on 9 May 2013, < http://mystarbucksidea.force.com/ >.

Murphie, A.K. 2012, Social Organisation, lecture notes distributed in the lecture session at The University of New South Wales, New South Wales on 8 May 2013.