Starbucks CEO Crossing CRM Line?

Howard Shultz sent an email out this morning and it was not about Starbucks Coffee, of which he is the CEO.  I’m assuming that open letter came to me via my personal email account because I am on Starbuck’s email list as a rewards member. It certainly pushes the boundary on what CRM can and should be used for.

Regardless of whether I agree with what Schultz wrote about – a campaign he started weeks ago attempting to break the political gridlock in Washington by recruiting companies to join him in cutting off campaign contributions until they start working across party lines to ensure the country’s success moving forward – the platform used to share the statement brings up a number of questions:

  • Does a company have a right to use their CRM/Emails as a platform for non directly related business communications?
  • Can they assume that their customers want to hear what they’ve got to say?
  • Is there going to be an inordinately high number of unsubscribes – and did they consider that before sending?
  • Will this be the start of a trend?

Many of these are effectively rhetorical as there are a number of variables depending on the message, the audience and their relationship with the company sending the message.  In terms of the trend question, it seems like this might be a new version of the full-page newspaper ads that were bought for open letters in the past. But this didn’t carry that weight as none of the 100 other businesses Shultz mentioned were actually named.

Only time will tell whether this was a reasonable use of CRM and what kind of ramifications it has for Starbucks and others.  I’m still undecided whether it is a good thing or not as it highlights even further the power companies wield on government vis-a-vis campaign contributions or political platforms.


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