Starbucks’ brand has taken a beating since the company
announced plans to hire 10,000 refugees worldwide in the next five years in response to Donald Trump’s executive order intended to prevent refugees from entering the US.
The coffee giant’s consumer perception levels have fallen by two-thirds since late January, according to YouGov BrandIndex.
The perception tracker measures if respondents have “heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative.” In Starbucks’ case, perception is still overall positive, but significantly lower than it was prior to CEO Howard Schultz published a public letter outlining the company’s plans to give refugees jobs.
“We are living in an unprecedented time, one in which we are witness to the conscience of our country, and the promise of the American Dream, being called into question,” CEO Howard Schultz wrote in a letter to Starbucks employees about the plan.
The graphic below shows YouGov’s brand perception since October of last year. The red arrow points to when Starbucks announced its plan to hire 10,000 refugees.
YouGov says that there’s reason to believe backlash will impact the chain’s bottom line. Two days before Starbucks’ announcement, 30% of consumers said they’d consider buying from Starbucks the next time they were craving coffee, the highest proportion in nearly a year. Now, the percentage is down to 24%, according to YouGov.
While many customers were immediately supportive of Starbucks’ actions to support refugees, others threatened to boycott.
“Upon hearing about your decision to hire 10000 refugees instead of Americans I will no longer spend any money at Starbucks,” one such Facebook user wrote on Starbucks’ page in late January.
Some of this resentment seemed to be rooted in a belief that Starbucks was hiring refugees instead of veterans. Starbucks, however, does have a program in place to support veterans and their families, hiring 8,000 veterans and military spouses since 2014 — an initiative the chain has attempted to highlight in recent days and weeks online and on social media.
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