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Brief Published: 13 Oct 2017

Starbucks’ Storytelling Success

Starbucks has launched the second season of its documentary series Upstanders, featuring stories of "extraordinary courage in unexpected places". The 11 short films cover issues such as immigration, racism, drug abuse and poverty by focusing on "untold stories of courage and extraordinary acts happening across communities in America today", according to Howard Schultz, Starbucks' executive chairman.

In Brands Take a Stand, we discussed how previous Starbucks attempts at purposeful marketing – including misguided engagement with the Black Lives Matter movement – forced the brand to listen to its audience and learn from its mistakes. The result was the successful first season of Upstanders, which debuted last year on YouTube and a dedicated app that now boasts 19 million users. According to Schultz, the first run of Upstanders episodes reached more than 60 million people.

With the second season, Starbucks is expanding its distribution channels: the series will stream on Amazon Prime as well as Facebook's new Watch platform. As we discussed in Reimagining Human Connectivity, consumer appetite for long-form, lean-back video content is growing. In the next 18 months, we'll see this trend fuelling the rise of "brands as studios", with marketers aiming to create content that can compete with the best of Netflix, rather than other brand advertising.

Underpinning this will be a strategy of seeking "uncommon partners", which we explore in Unlocking Internal Innovation from our latest Macro Trend, The Work/Life Revolution. US beverage brand Gatorade, for example, has just launched its own scripted series in partnership with LA-based media firm Awesomeness TV (see Capturing Cord Cutters: Advertising Week New York 2017 for more).

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