Brand Disconnects in Marketing Content & Product Packaging

I just ordered a cup of tea from Starbucks, which is running a series called "The Way I See It", which is a bunch of idealistic quotes from various sources.
The Way I See It #193 was from a musician named Dan Zanes. The quote was

Let's imagine a 21st century America where families, friends and neighbors gather together at the end of each day in parks and town squares and on street corners and porches, to tell stories and jokes, to sing and dance with wild abandon! I can see and hear it now...

Then the cup has
- Dan Zanes
written under that.

At the bottom of the cup it has printed in small text

This is the author's opinion, not necessarily that of Starbucks. To read more or respond, go to

If they don't believe in a message, why waste my time showing it to me? Using words without meaning or disclaiming the value of your marketing undervalues consumer trust.

Similarly, when you lack an about page and don't have a human feel to your website it is far easier to appear as a slimy corporation that cares about nothing more than short term profit. Not mentioning much about us makes a site nameless and faceless. Some companies can pull it off because their marketing is so strong on other fronts, but if you are small then acting small may be one of your biggest advantages.

Published: March 12, 2007 by Aaron Wall in marketing


March 12, 2007 - 4:47am

Hi Aaron,

Funny. I saw the same thing this weekend and thought it was a clever bit of cross-channel link bait. Post inspirational/inflammatory comments offline and encourage customers to comment on them online.


March 12, 2007 - 5:22am

I feel the exact same way. If you are going to put a quote such as that on your product then you must have read it and though it was worthy enough to add so why not stand behind it?

March 12, 2007 - 5:31am

Hi Aaron,

I find this whole thing to be uber ridiculous... just like you and Brent Wilson who posted above me... why risk your brand image by believing in one thing and doing the other. If starbucks has to place a disclaimer near the comment/action/remark then why risk what you stand as a company by doing something silly like they did. I for one question Starbucks and wonder if they do believe in something other then price gauging...

March 12, 2007 - 1:01pm

I think they are homing in on the trend to appreciate and share inspiring quotes and sayings - which can also be seen on myspace.

Unfortunately they didn't do it consistently and let their lawyers add a disclaimer... The effect is less trust, but it is also exemplary for a culture where culpability has come center stage.

Matthew Shuff
March 12, 2007 - 1:55pm

With all the hypersensitivity in our society and political correctness police out there, it is pretty much impossible for a corporation to pass on any statement without taking a risk. As you say in your own book [marketing] is a balance of risk and reward. Your advice is great, especially for the online space. "Marketing is a conversation" and you have to be honest and real. Starbucks is attempting to be a little human here, and I believe their effort will please the overwhelming majority of their customers. I appreciate a little saying on my coffee cup more than an advertisement or some corporate jargon...disclaimer and all. I really don't see the big deal - not in this example. When you're having the intimate one-on-one conversation, speaking in the personal voice that works so well on the web, definitely DO need to believe what you say and say it with conviction.

March 12, 2007 - 3:19pm

I agree with Matthew Shuff. I'm just glad a quote is there and I don't see anything wrong with a disclaimer, it's standard protocol for a large corporation, for example let's say one of their quotes could potentially be interpreted as non-religious. It could lead to a boycott and bad pr which is something a big company can't afford. We do live in a hypersensitive society with leaders just looking to use stupid examples like a quote to gain free media exposure and rally people around a cause, regardless of how ridiculous it may appear. As a small company the probability of say having people boycott you goes down exponentially, so the smaller you are the less risk it is and the greater potential reward. It all makes sense to me. Why do you care so much, it's a quote on a coffee cup at a chain store.

I don't need to feel like Star Bucks is having a personal conversation with me, I just want my coffee in a nice setting that I'm use to, which is probably the majority of their customers! You confusing something that may be GREAT for blogging and the web with a brick and motor chain coffee shop.

March 12, 2007 - 3:32pm

I constantly notice disconnects between companies, brands, their marketing and what they say and do. I guess I should say...between what they say and otherwise appear to do.

I've never found marketing to be a completely honest or ethical area. Too many shades of gray, too many half truths and far too much pretense.

In my opinion that's the difference between advertising and marketing. Advertising says, this is what I have, you want it then go ahead. Marketing says, this is what I have, you need it and cannot live without it, you must have it now and I will continue to warp and pervert your mind until you have it!

March 12, 2007 - 7:32pm

Jono, no matter how much you hate marketing, your business is absolutely dependent upon it, unless you're in the VERY rare group of companies that are truly remarkable (be definition most companies are only good, fair, or below average). People tell themselves lies. Marketing just reinforces the lies and world view people want/need to believe. Without the core facilicies and lies that people want/need to believe, fancy marketing wouldn't work.

A quick example, why do you think there are so many diet pill, fitness equipment, workout 10 minutes a day, crap commercials selling billions of dollars worth of solutions that don't work? The reason is people want to believe they work, they are unwilling to do the things actually required to successfully loose weight and be in shape (diet AND excersize regularly at least 30mins a day)

So instead, they buy the marketing because they'd rather lie to themselves and believe a pill / fancy ab equipment and 10 minutes will work.

The marketing simply reinforces the lie the customers have already told themselves. The customers themselves don't care about the truth. The truth, it doesn't cost anything to be in shape, you can work for free, but it's hard work and you have to diet AND excersize regularly which is a big commitment. The truth doesn't sell, because so many people want an easy solution and to lie to themselves instead of accepting reality.

March 13, 2007 - 5:59am

Well put Solomon, you're quite right and I thoroughly enjoyed coming back to read your comment. It's very true that marketing does indeed reinforce the lies of those who would rather live their lives full of pretense instead of a much more pure and honest lifestyle.

Being sorely aware of that fact is perhaps what drives me to despise such things as marketing. All things in life are surely connected no matter how obscure. I think it typical for most to blot out a lot of important information and instead fill that space with useless and not entirely true information. As long as what they seek to believe in is comfortable and familiar, floating through life in a nice little bubble high above reality. That in itself is what pervades our modern culture and like you say makes marketing so effective, in fact would you agree that that is what marketing strives to take advantage of?

Ah it can be a task to remain so aware and not disregard what is so evident and equally disregarded at the same time. One is faced with so many lies and half truths everyday it’s a challenge not to become cynical.

So for marketing to change people need to change. In light of that one must pursue the root cause of why people are the way they are. Why do they rather live lies of deceit and attempting to attain unrealistic ideals? What happened to truth and honesty? What happened to truly accepting ourselves and others instead of accepting who we’d rather be or appear to be?

This is a topic I’m sure we could both go on about at length. I’m hesitant to write more as I may have already surpassed a point where this in itself should be a blog posting and not a comment. However I do thank you for the conversation!

May 20, 2007 - 5:48pm

want me to keep buying starbucks stop with the "way I see it"

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