Airline Magazines are a specific and unique genre of publication, typically purchasing articles from free lancers and periodically, if not publicly, allowing articles to be purchased. In this month’s Hemispheres by United Airlines, the lead “voices” piece is an article by Starbucks CEO Jim Donald discussing the company’s CSR practices in in the many countries in which it the company operates. United Airlines boasts that they are the only carrier to serve Starbucks Coffee, which is a second part of this marketing relationship. Serve the coffee with highly visible branding and insert interesting articles into the in-flight magazine on behalf of the client. (I’m making the assumption that this articles appearance in the magazine is associated with a co-marketing campaign).
This particular article talks about the symbiotic relationship Starbucks has with its farmers, a program called “CAFE” – Coffee and Farmer Equity – which requires farmers to meet certain criteria in order to be recognized. The article also talks about the upcoming release of “Estima” a Fair-Trade Certified brand of coffee that Starbucks will soon launch.
It’s a light and fluffy article, the kind you might expect in flight. Is it effective? Well with most passengers on all United flights at least thumbing past it, there is certain to be a fairly huge amount of exposure for Starbucks. The simplicity of it, along with it’s placement as a real article, and not as an obvious advertisement, make it both quick to read and highly believable.
Starbucks seems to be doing a number of commendable things with regards to sustainability, and they obviously recognize the public relations benefit in making their commitment visible to the average public who might other wise gloss over articles on CSR. Furthermore, regardless of Starbucks performance, putting this sort of article out in front of people makes CSR and fair trade stand out. It’s an invitation to other companies (including Starbucks’ competitors) to get on the bandwagon as well. I think the piece ought to have a positive impact on the movement towards sustainability.