NEW YORK: Starbucks, the coffee-house chain, has successfully leveraged brand journalism to help spread its values – and, in the process, has learned valuable lessons that can be applied to its broader marketing efforts.

Rajiv Chandrasekaran, SVP/Public Affairs at Starbucks, discussed this subject during a session at eMarketer's Attention! conference in New York.

More specifically, he provided details surrounding the organization's ‘Upstanders’ series, which featured ten short films about real people doing inspiring things in the US – content that was accompanied by a set of podcasts and written articles.

"We wanted to reject the idea that all was bad in our country," Chandrasekaran said. (For more, read Warc's free-to-access report: Starbucks spreads positivity with brand journalism.)

"And we canvassed the country to find ten stories that we thought were really emblematic of what great American citizenship is all about. And then when we set out to tell them in three different ways – which is pretty novel for us."

In building out its distribution strategy, Starbucks used owned assets including its in-store WiFi network, mobile app, packaging and social channels. But it utilized paid-media support for ‘Upstanders’, too.

"Early on, it was the content creation that was the challenge, and distribution was a bit of an afterthought. And, as we got closer to launch, it became much clearer to us that, really, distribution was going to be key here," Chandrasekaran said.

"We spent several times more on distribution than we did on content creation. We ultimately realized that was where we needed to put the investment."

As this campaign was based on "human stories" rather than "non-product" material, it also gave the company's marketers the opportunity to test tools and techniques which may not normally be an option.

"What we have done here has, I think, further whetted appetites across the enterprise to do not just more social-impact content, but more storytelling that would have a branded element to it," Chandrasekaran said.

"It's now created a bit of a model. So if we go and do, for instance, more branded content, there's a whole set of learnings here that can apply."

Data sourced from Warc