Idea vs. Execution

By Mary Tindall

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“Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward. They may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.”

― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, writer and statesman


Starbucks ended its short-lived “Race Together” campaign this week after inciting global controversy over what many called a half-baked strategy.

Bringing race to the forefront of our collective consciousness is a noble, vital goal. And Starbucks grasps the importance of grassroots action when it comes to sparking change. But when a corporate behemoth tries to pull off a grassroots campaign, no matter how well-intentioned, it can register as inauthentic – and that’s what happened here.

“Race Together” is a fascinating PR case study on ideas vs. execution. The best ideas change the world for the better. And plenty of legendary ad campaigns center on one simple, elegant idea (like Apple’s “Think different.” campaign in the late 1990s).

But a great idea isn’t enough. It has to marry with solid strategy and execution. Without those two ingredients, an idea is a fantasy, at best – and at worst, it’s a disaster.

Starbucks plans to run special sections in USA Today, hold forums on race and hire more employees from diverse backgrounds – all of which seem like more appropriate venues for the type of conversation they hoped to inspire.

Meanwhile, the next time I hit the drive-through on my way to work, I won’t be wondering whether my iced caramel macchiato will come with an awkward conversation starter on the side.

Mary Tindall is a senior account executive at Costa Communications Group.


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