What We Can Learn from Starbucks’ Upstanders.

As humans, we can be so locked into a behavior that we don’t even think about certain daily habits and the roles they play in our lives. Take coffee, for instance. That Starbucks down the street from your house isn’t just a place to get a cup of java. It’s a place where we meet friends, make friends, work or just kick back and check out for a while. We do a lot at Starbucks. We share ideas. We come up with ideas. We discover new music. We tell stories and listen to news of the day. And we take all those experiences for granted.

(By the way, this is coming from the guy who doesn’t like coffee. Yet, I have their app and a very active rewards membership.)

Starbucks isn’t merely a coffee chain; it’s a community gathering place. And that’s why their newly launched story series, Upstanders, is so brilliant. The project highlights ordinary people all over the world doing extraordinary things in their communities.

For Starbucks, highlighting these stories is another organic, meaningful way they participate in our lives. Even as a global company, they’ve worked hard to create a community feel with every store. It’s not just Starbucks; it’s my Starbucks. Will their content directly sell more coffee? Probably not. But those stories will endear us to the brand and help Starbucks remain a part of our daily habit.

At the end of the day, that’s a big win for a brand that can shake off the focus on numbers and realize the powerful value in creating things that strengthen brand perception. My point is this: brands need to look hard at the role they play in people’s lives and ask how they can participate in the daily conversations, activities and habitual behaviors of their customers.

So, how do you adopt this winning strategy? To start, it’s critical to understand the behaviors of your audiences, whether that’s your customers, employees or partners. After all, each one of them plays a vital role in the success of your organization. But instead of analyzing how you can squeeze another dollar out of that behavior, think about how you can deepen the relationship they have with you by creating new opportunities to extend that behavior.

For example, Starbucks introduces Upstanders to customers as they go about their normal behavior. When a customer connects to Starbucks’ Wifi, it lands them on the coffee chain’s website, which features a large plug for Upstanders. They’ve taken an ingrained behavior and introduced yet another opportunity for the customer to engage with the brand in a unique way.

Secondly, and this is the tough one, you can’t be afraid to experiment. Even if it doesn’t feel like there is a direct connection to the product or service you offer, you have to try a number of things and keep what is working the hardest for you. Brainstorm ideas by starting with the easy answers, then keep taking a step outward to find something really unique and different.

My hope with writing this is that you’ll see that Starbucks creating the Upstanders stories isn’t a stretch for them. Or their customers. There are myriad ways you can creatively engage with your customers and influence their behavior towards your brand, if you just put a little thought — and some guts — into how to better enrich the experience.