Starbucks pours great ad agency down the drain

Starbucks print ad from <a title="Link to W&K site for Starbucks ad" href=There are a few ad agencies that really understand relationship marketing and building brands based on emotional ownership over rational decision making processes- Wieden & Kennedy is one of them.

Since 2004 they’ve worked with Starbucks, a brand that’s been known as a poor client. When your agency fires you as a client, it’s time to do some introspection. Especially if you are a marquee type client.

Getting fired means you are doing something wrong, and Starbucks’ senior VP-marketing seems to be the first candidate for the introspection couch:

In a statement, Starbucks’ senior VP-marketing, Terry Davenport, said Wieden’s decision was a response to Starbucks’ recent move to ask a number of agencies it works with, including Wieden, to “provide ideas to move the brand forward. … And, as a result, Wieden has decided to opt out of the process,” he said.

While Wieden is Starbucks’ primary agency, the retailer has worked with a number of other agencies in recent years on co-branded products. Interpublic Group of Cos.’ DraftFCB, New York, is the primary shop on its grocery coffee business. Starbucks has also worked with Omnicom Group’s Goodby Silverstein & Partners on the bottled Frappucino beverages it co-markets with Pepsi and Energy BBDO for the coffee liqueur brand it co-marketed with Beam Global Wine & Spirits.

But Wieden, which also handled media buying and planning for the coffee roaster, as well as much of its in-store graphics work, had been responsible for the first large-scale advertising in Starbucks’ history, including its first TV push last winter.

Wieden Parts Ways With Starbucks - Advertising Age - Agency News.

Starbucks is a brand that’s a love it or hate it brand. Their market penetration is incredible, as I’m constantly reminded when I pop up my “Starbucks finder” on my iPhone and almost always find one nearby when the coffee urge hits my companions.

And here is where the fundamental problem exists: The best marketing and advertising that Starbucks can do- isn’t marketing or advertising in the traditional sense of the words- because it’s just not necessary. The focus should be on refining a voice through the brand touchpoints and building very tight relationships with their customers through Customer Relationship Management tools. This is hard for both a VP of Marketing to understand and hard for an ad agency to caculate a compensation program for.

Modern marketing techniques don’t come with conventional media billings- and for a company like Starbucks, they shouldn’t. But, an open mind of how to build relationships with customers should be the first order of discussion with any agency who is bold enough to take on this “difficult client.”