Starbucks is promoting “Unity” — both racial unity and a Spotify music playlist of the same name that aims to inspire racial harmony — in its US locations. The collection of curated music, which can be accessed through the Starbucks profile on Spotify, extends the brand’s ongoing commitment to sparking a conversation and change around race relations in America.
Expanding on last year’s “Race Together” concept to put racial discussions in the foreground, a campaign that asked employees to strike up conversations about race with customers, Starbucks is taking a subtler approach by playing meaningful background music to encourage everyone to just get along.
“For decades, music has been both a mirror that reflects society and culture, and a magnet that unifies people and helps them express common emotions,” Starbucks stated in a press release. “In the wake of current events, Starbucks Entertainment Team has curated music to foster togetherness through songs that transcend generations and genres.”
“I am deeply troubled by the events of not only the past week, but the last few years as we face the dysfunction and discord present in our great nation,” added Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz of the musical peace offering, with a mix of artists including Marvin Gaye, John Legend, Stevie Wonder, George Harrison and U2.
“With stores in nearly every community across America, Starbucks has long served as a place for connection. And while ours is but a small role to play, I am humbled and honored to share this curated music selection during a time when our country needs to heal and demonstrate empathy for one another more than at any recent time in our history.”
It’s a subtler spin from last year’s Race Together to promote a discussion on diversity between employees and customers—a conversational gambit that was dismissed as a PR flop and roundly criticized on social media as overstepping expectations for employees and customers alike.
Schultz penned a letter to employees saying in part, “I know this hasn’t been easy for any of you—let me assure you that we didn’t expect universal praise… We leaned in because we believed that starting this dialogue is what matters most.”
In addition to continuing to take a salon approach to corporate citizenship, Starbucks is upping its upscale persona further with a new chain of Starbucks Reserve-only stores offering premium, small lot reserve coffee in more of a cafe environment than current Starbucks stores.
“We recognize our customers expect and desire a higher level of product and we want to give it to them,” Schultz commented. The new Reserve-only stores will be twice as large as current stores and will come to hundreds of locations starting next year.
As part of that rollout, Starbucks has signed a partnership with Italian bakery Princi to make fresh baked bread in its new store concept, making it the exclusive food purveyor in all new Starbucks Roastery locations, including Shanghai and New York, with plans to be fully integrated into all new Starbucks Reserve-only stores starting in 2017.
“We have never baked in our stores in 45 years,” said Schultz. “But all of that will change with the creation of this unique partnership. I can think of no better pairing for our most premium coffee experience and am excited by the possibilities we envision in Princi food elevating every daypart – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – in Starbucks Roasteries and Reserve Stores.”
Taking a stake in the Princi business as part of the deal, Starbucks joins investors Angel Lab and Pekepan Investments to help the Princi brand expand worldwide beyond its five current locations in Milan and London.