Starbucks Assigns Creative to Wieden

LOS ANGELES Starbucks Coffee Co. has confirmed that it has named independent Wieden + Kennedy the creative agency for its estimated $20 million account.

A decision was expected since late last month [Adweek Online, March 29], after Wieden and the only other finalist, Publicis Groupe-backed Bartle Bogle Hegarty, New York, presented to a client group that included chairman Howard Schultz, senior vice president of international marketing Thomas Yang and vice president of marketing Anne Saunders.

“We wanted to find an agency that would be a long-term strategic partner for the development of the brand,” said Saunders. “We saw a lot of great agencies, smart people and great work. The review was often very fun. But Wieden distinguished themselves. They had what we wanted to see in a partner.”

Saunders said the corporate cultures of the Portland, Ore., agency and the Seattle-based Starbucks matched perfectly. “We were looking for soul mates,” she said. “No company doesn’t think that its culture is unique, but we believe it is the defining part of Starbucks, and Wieden is also founded on shared values. We have the opportunity to learn from them.”

Dave Luhr, Wieden’s chief operating officer and managing director, who has wanted to represent the brand for years, said the companies are “an amazing match.”

Starbucks wants to grow internationally, but Saunders noted that Wieden’s assignment involves brand strategy and domestic advertising. “We try to take a singular brand positioning, our voice, and make it appropriate locally,” she said. “The minority owner in Turkey, for example, might want to partner with a local company.”

Saunders said an “immersion process” would have the agency visiting roasting plants and stores. She said the in-house marketing staff of 75 is accustomed to taking the lead for point-of-purchase ads and that Starbucks is “exploring with Wieden how to cross-pollinate teams for in-store and out-of-store.”

The review stressed alternative media concepts, Saunders said, because the firm had grown by nontraditional means. She said the company would continue to use guerilla techniques such as traveling sample vans and event marketing like Avant Grande, an exhibition of Starbucks employee art at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, with benefit proceeds going to local scholarships.

“There’s not one formulaic way to succeed,” said Saunders. “The brand is elastic, so we can evolve it. At one time, no Starbucks was open after 6 p.m. and now there are 24-hour stores. We introduced wi-fi hot spots, expanded the use of music in stores. If we stay true to quality, to the experience in the store, to the human connection, our customers will give us a lot of permission to try things.”