Lessons from the Field: Popular Girl Blake Lively Sends Starbucks to Eat Alone in the Cafeteria

I love to start a business lesson from the field with a personal tale.


When my fabulous daughter was in the first grade, her father and I were called into school by her teacher. The headmaster was there as well. The teacher said we had to speak to our darling because she — the teacher — couldn't get the class to do what she wanted unless Sarah said it was okay. The kids in the class followed Sarah and looked to her for approval.


My ex, successful investment banker that he was, was filled with certainty about the importance of nurturing leadership qualities in his beloved child. He said, “I'm not sure I understand the problem. Are you calling us in here to marvel at our daughter's leadership skills?”


I'm exaggerating, but just a little.


He went on. “We chose this left-of-center school because your goal is to nurture every child’s talents and interests. Sounds like our Sarah is interested in leading the country one day, and I'm so glad you want to discuss how we can help her get there.”


The headmaster, smart man that he was, made a suggestion. “In my experience, if you engage her yourself to help you, everyone will win and she can go on to be her best self. When you want the class's attention, just say, ‘Sarah can you flick the lights for me, please? I want everyone's attention.”


Flash forward twenty-five years, and there I was, watching Blake Lively answer 73 questions. Fast forward to 3:35 into the interview, when she is asked, “Whom would you like to have coffee with at Starbucks?” Her immediate response is, “Do people go to Starbucks these days?”

Ouch. While this goes back a few years, I think it's a great lesson in today's synergistic marketing: Using the synergy of another to advance your own brand, even if that synergy didn't start out in your favor. You see, in today's world, the original message no longer stands up to what you can manipulate it into being. Donald Trump has taught us that.


Let's get back to Starbuck's response to the 73 questions #NotOnPurpose attack by the lovely Blake.


OMG! Emergency communications, marketing, advertising, spin doctor team meeting called at Starbucks Headquarters. Do we respond? Do we ignore? OMG!


Think high school, and the cool girl making an off-the-cuff, #SorryNotSorry comment to someone else about that outfit you wore — the knee socks just didn't quite match the plaid in the skirt, and you were forever after relegated to the back of the lunchroom bus. Think of my daughter Sarah, who was more in control of her class than the teacher.


So Starbucks, here's your takeaway: Enlist Blake Lively to promote your brand. Start delivering Starbucks to her whenever you know where she is. Next Red Carpet, a Starbucks barista brings her preferred hot coffee and invites her to come in. And make a fifteen-second video every time.


Blake endorses Chanel, Gucci, and L'Oreal. Put a Chanel product on the counter. Chanel and Starbucks go together like Hot Chocolate and Coffee. #ComeAndGetItBlakeLively


Take the picture we used here and put it on Instagram. Does anyone go to Starbucks anymore? Yeah, Blake, you do! #DoesAnyoneGoToStarbucksAnymore The fact that the image is a few years old won't matter. No one will realize that. The picture, posted now, becomes now. #TrumpsContributionToMarketingToday


Make this bigger than big, and then lure her into the conversation. Keep it tongue-in-cheek. Broken heart in hand — have Howard Schultz hold up his broken heart and make a face on the video.


This is a gift, people. Forget lemonade — make hot chocolate out of the lemons. While Starbucks didn't use the moment, if it happened today, they might. Market through the negative to produce a positive. Negative + Positive = Positive because the last thing you see about something is what resonates and becomes real.


--Christine Merser, Managing Partner, Blue Shoe Strategy


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