Looking through the froth to find the cause at Starbucks

Looking through the froth to find the cause at Starbucks Leisure Report March 2008

Brands with a cause was my recent plea (see: what does my brand stand for? Leisure Report January 2008). Let us ignore the companies bordering on the irrelevant and connect with those that genuinely stand for something. Life is too short to waste on companies that are fickle, fake, or those peddling mediocrity. Once customers find their corporate soul mates, then organisations can stop fixating on short-term campaigns and convoluted incentives because there now exists a real and deep sense of connection. The types of organisations where genuine customer and corporate synchronicity exists will vary. For some it will be the local organic butcher, where the provenance and welfare of animals is paramount. It may also be the health club, which has triggered a remarkable transformation in an individual’s health and well-being, or the ambience of the local cafe, which has the extraordinary ability to pause life. However, when we scratch away the surface of these businesses, what do we discover? Perhaps there is no enduring cause after all, but simply a business that through its geographic proximity has found some custom.

How deep is a company’s cause?
During a recent interview with Joe Cirulli, the founder of the Gainesville Health and Fitness Centre in Florida, which has previously been voted one of the world’s best health clubs, I vividly recall something he said while we were discussing Gainesville’s core values: ‘We define integrity as always doing the right thing even when no one is looking’. It was the ‘when no one is looking’ part which resonated with me. This is the real acid test. When a company’s moral compass gets tested and where some organisations are revealed as peddling a superficial campaign under the guide of a cause. Gainesville is guided by the Mark Twain maxim: ‘When in doubt, tell the truth’. This deep-rooted sense of integrity has helped Gainesville to retain some members for over thirty years and to become a genuine ‘third place’ in members’ lives.

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