I love Starbucks just as much as the next person, but sometimes you have to admit when a company messes up. Last July, Starbucks Argentina sent an apology Tweet for using blank “national cups and sleeves” instead of the usual imported cups bearing the Starbucks logo, causing controversy for customers all across the Twittersphere.
Although meant as a good PR move to maintain transparency and honesty by Starbucks, the Tweet caused Argentines to take offense to the fact that Starbucks felt the need to apologize for using locally made products, especially in a country with such significant national pride. It escalated to a trending topic (#weapologize) in a matter of hours, but did ultimately prompt an apology post on the Starbucks Argentina Facebook page.
For a such a global and socially aware company, Starbucks’ mistake could not have come at a worse time – just as the company planned a 300-store expansion into Latin America by 2015. However, the public relations lesson this case teaches is that even if you are trying to be transparent and maintain good relationships with your publics, you should always be knowledgeable and conscious of the particular public you are communicating with.
Since Starbucks took the time to operate an exclusively Argentine Twitter account and Facebook page, it should have also been aware of the characteristics of the nation involved, in this case, very high patriotism. In addition, apologies or addresses to incidents that cause trending topics should be handled much sooner than 8 hours, as was the case with Starbucks. After all, everyone makes mistakes, it’s just all about how you react, recover, and rethink next time you post. Now will someone bring me a vanilla spice latte?!