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Legal Marketing Lessons From Starbucks' Good-Citizen Tactics

Law firms who want to improve their marketing efforts could learn a lot from Starbucks' Good-Citizen initiative.

Frappuccinos are certainly delicious. Starbucks’ variety of coffee and tea beverages and food, coupled with consistent branding and thousands of easily accessible locations, are obviously a huge part of the company’s success. But transforming from just another coffee shop into one of the world’s leading coffee brands took marketing ingenuity beyond a recognizable logo. Starbucks has adeptly incorporated Corporate Social Responsibility and audience connection into its marketing strategy in a way that benefits the company and, hopefully, their communities, employees, and the globe.

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Corporate Social Responsibility

CSR is a strategy corporations use to be good citizens. Acting ethically and responsibly by doing things like implementing environmentally friendly measures, treating everyone in the supply chain fairly, and contributing to the communities in which they operate ensures companies gain customers’ and shareholders’ loyalty and dollars.

Starbucks is known for being a responsible corporation because it carefully and strategically crafted that persona through marketing. Its website, shareholder reports, social media channels and stores are full of photos and text that tell Starbucks’ stories of feeding the hungry, recycling cups and straws, and implementing support centers for farmers and communities in central Africa, where its cocoa and coffee are grown.

Consumers care about CSR and reward companies for their efforts. A 2017 Cone Communications CSR Study found that 76% of Americans would refuse to purchase a product from a company that supported an issue contrary to their beliefs and 89% would “switch brands to one that is associated with a good cause, given similar price and quality.” These stats came to life for Starbucks when, one day in 2018, it announced it was switching to paper straws. The next day, its stock rose nearly 2%.

Sharing Starbucks CSR Story Through Marketing

Starbucks’ mission statement, “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time,” aligns with the company’s long-standing drive to make personal connections between customers, employees, the community, and the brand. This ideology is consistently included in Starbucks’ marketing strategy and is part-and-parcel to its CSR strategy. The ways in which Starbucks telegraphs its responsible, ethical identity is vast and varied.

Companies that share their do-gooder activities must walk a fine line to not appear exploitive or pandering, and Starbucks handles this masterfully by letting the activities and data speak for themselves. For example, Starbucks’ baristas (known as “partners”) wear Starbucks-branded t-shirts and pins that tout the company’s support of LGBTQ and BIOPIC people.

A barista may wear an apron that says “Community Champion” for participating in company-sanctioned events like beach cleanups and food drives. The website provides information about its move to allow customers to use their own reusable cup for every Starbucks visit by the end of 2023 to reduce waste. Starbucks’ Instagram page includes inspirational messages of kindness and inclusivity among images of its beverages.

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Legal Marketing and CSR

There are many ways law firms and lawyers can demonstrate CSR. While gifting money to charitable organizations is always appreciated, a good CSR strategy for law firms and lawyers should go beyond check writing.

  • Consider the causes employees and clients care about. Perhaps watercooler talk centers on people’s pets. The firm can hold a drive to collect used blankets and towels to donate to the local animal shelter.

  • Think about how the firm’s practices or niche industries could benefit from the unique help your law firm or attorneys can provide. For example, an immigration law firm could ask attorneys to volunteer at a pro bono clinic helping immigrants fill out paperwork.

  • Encourage individual attorneys and staff to get involved in causes they care about and support their efforts by providing time and resources. Have a paralegal that serves on the board of a nonprofit that raises money for schools? Ask her how others can help the organization’s mission and give her flexibility to leave early once a month to attend board meetings.

Marketing these activities authentically and tastefully is often a bigger challenge than finding ways to be helpful in the first place. Successfully showcasing a law firm’s CSR is more than posting about women partners during Women’s History Month; it’s showing that real people are involved in causes that are near-and-dear to their hearts. This is done by ensuring that all volunteer and pro bono activities are included:

Attorneys can gain marketing leverage from doing good by getting a photo of themselves hammering a nail in a Habitat for Humanity house or running a 10K in support of breast cancer research. When they share those photos on their own social media accounts, tag the law firm or share the photos and some information with the firm’s marketing team. When an attorney is being recognized for their dedication to a professional or community organization, consider if that is worthy of an announcement on the website and a social media post.

Chances are law firm attorneys and staff are already engaged in making meaningful contributions to their communities. Sharing those activities with target audiences, like Starbucks does, creates a do-good identity that clients will recognize, appreciate, and reward with their business.

Contact Scorpion to talk about ways to share your firm’s CSR work!

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