On the 7th August 2012, Starbucks backed the National Marriage Equality Day by working with Equally Wed Magazine1 to show their support in legalizing same sex marriage in the US. This campaign was triggered by Chick-fil-A2 Appreciation Day just 2 days before the former event.
The whole thing started from the Preseident of Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy’s interview on 16 July 2012 about the corporate’s view on family values. Though the company has always denied that they are against gay marriage (but made donations to anti-gay groups3), the statement made strongly in support of the bible has created uproar for what the corporation stands for4.
To battle the backlash of his statement, former presidential candidate and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee called for Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day for those who support Dan Cathy's "right of free speech" by visiting the restaurant. Facebook event page shows that there were more than 670,000 people signed up to attend the event5. This event was widely supported at the Southern part of the country, however receives poor response and even boycott at the central part such as New York.
Starbucks' National Marriage Equality Day organised by Equally Wed Magazine though did not receive greater response than Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, it has definitely made itself heard. Companies that support gay pride not only count Starbucks, international corporations such as Nike, Microsoft, Google, Apple and Absolut Vodka6 are also in the list that supports LGBT7 rights.
Now, what we want to highlight here is the “record-setting” sales of Chick-fil-A on that day. It seems that by making people “mad” about certain issues actually drive sales. Chick-fil-A claimed “free speech” as the reason for the President’s statement. Christian consumers who think that their belief has been attacked would obviously support the campaign as a way out to "fight back". But, through ‘buying fried chicken’? Really? What a sales driving tactic!
Then why has Starbucks with nearly 17,600 outlets, 10 times more than Chick-fil-A (at 1,614) received a low turnout on National Marriage Equality Day8? "The event was a success", said Equally Wed Magazine, "it achieved the desired objective of keeping the issue of marriage equality on the forefront of public conversation."9
The event, organised by Equally Wed Magazine and supported by Starbucks and Amazon, created an online campaign: "EquallyWed.com asks that you spend your money wisely on this day, and every day. It's important to be an informed consumer. RSVP on Facebook and join the conversation.” It sounds like: "Don't waste your money on a cause you don't understand because you are not told about the full story."
That's a brilliant statement and I don't think they have failed. How can you fail any campaign that is so straightforward? Equally Wed were only telling people who they are and Starbucks and Amazon were only agreeing that we are all the same regardless of our sexuality.
Firstly, it is not about how many outlets Starbucks have in the US, it is how many gay people there are and how many of us who are not gay actually think our action matters. From the Equally Wed Magazine Facebook, there are only 8,966 fans compared to 6,268,000 fans for Chick-fil-A. The number of targeted people the Chick-fil-A campaign reached out to would of course be a lot more than the Equally Wed. If the campaign was created by Starbucks which has a huge 31,000,000 fans, I am well sure that the turnout would be far greater.
Secondly, with only 2 days marketing for the National Marriage Equality Day campaign and spread only online through Equally Wed website, the awareness was obviously not as impactful as one that was publicised through a religious newspapers (Baptist Press), online news (FoxNews.com) as well as a political figure (Mike Huckabee). Though now the exposure for the campaign would increase and marked its effectiveness due to many report about it in the news.
Lastly, the impact of buying coffee from Starbucks is not as direct as buying fried chicken from Chick-fil-A, which the latter was seen the direct targeted victim and Starbucks was not. There is not a direct association between coffee and gay, when the beverage itself is widely consumed by mass consumers, whether you are gay or not.
Yet, I won’t say the Starbucks campaign was a failure, imagine that being brought to Malaysia – you won’t even hear a word about it.
1. An online US gay wedding magazine.
2. Chick-fil-A is an American fast food chain that specialises in Chicken sandwiches. The corporation’s culture is very much Christian oriented due to the founder – Samuel Cathy’s belief in the religion. The chain is closed on Sunday which can be of religious reason but this has never really been admitted as such by the corporation.
3. According to the Colbert Report.
4. Refer to Baptist Press interview with Dan Cathy on 16th July 2012.
5. Refer to the Facebook event page.
6. List of international corporations that support LGBT equality.
7. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.
8. Low turn out on the campaign report here.
9. The Christian Post, 9th August 2012.