Skip Starbucks Saturday

Events, Seasonal and Short-Term (GOLD)

Client Credits: Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America
Shannon Watts, Founder
Jennifer Hoppe, Deputy Director

Agency Credits: GREY
Patrick Scissons, Chief Creative Officer
Jay Melnychuk, Designer
Logan Gabel, Art Director
Rob Trickey, Art Director
Patrick Scissons, Writer
Sue Kohm, Writer
Vikki Kuzmich, Producer
Laura Rovinescu, Account Supervisor
PR Agency: Berlin Rosen

Total 1741 Words


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):JULY 9 – SEPTEMBER 18, 2013
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: July 9, 2013
Base Period as a Benchmark: N/A

a) Overall Assessment

“If at first you don't succeed,Try, try, try again. 

Thomas H. Palmer


In December 2012, the Newtown massacre left 28 people dead, including 20 children. This unspeakable act spawned the creation of MOMS DEMAND ACTION FOR GUN SENSE IN AMERICA by one concerned mom in Illinois. Much like MADD, MDA was created to galvanize the public to demand action for legislators at the state and federal levels, corporate citizens, and educational institutions to establish common-sense gun reforms.

Nearly eight American children are shot and killed everyday. Any other cause for this many deaths would be immediately investigated and regulated. However, not a single federal law has been passed in decades to prevent gun violence – not after Columbine and not after Newtown. The conversation on gun control in the USA is fraught with partisan politics, civil rights debates, constitutional issues, media spin and the influence of lobby groups and industry of which the NRA is the most notable, powerful and well funded.

GREY’s initial campaign for MDA exceeded all client expectations. It grew membership from one concerned mom to 105,000 actively engaged members. It generated 243 million unique views and was featured on CNN, NBC, ABC and The Washington Post. It was recognized by the White House and helped achieve 91% public support for the proposed assault weapon ban BUT it failed to win over the Senators who were in the pocket of the NRA. 

b) Resulting Business Objectives

To get the attention of lawmakers we had to pivot our lens and instead put pressure on corporate America to help bring about positive change.

There was a single, unilateral goal: create enough public interest and pressure on corporate America to get them to take up the gun reform mission.

Ancillary goals:

- Continue to grow membership and fan base for the MDA organization.

- Continue to raise national awareness with the media and public for more sensible gun laws.

c) Annual Media Budget
$100,000 - $200,000

d) Geographic Area
National USA

a) Analysis and Insight

We dove into understanding the issue.

First, we had the world’s largest and most engaged focus group. All 105,000-member moms were ready and willing to help us help them. We conducted countless interviews to understand what motivated them, concerned them, worried them, and finally what got them to take action.

Second, we engaged in media monitoring across channels, where the topic of gun reform was being actively discussed, debated, and analyzed. Not only were we hearing what pundits and politicians had to say, and the outrage being raised on both sides of the issue, but we also saw what was happening in social media and the blogosphere to get a sense for how America itself was feeling and acting.

Third, we looked into other facets of American society that were seeing positive change led by corporate America, “lobbying for good”. 

We learned that;

- Many retail outlets in America, supported America’s “open carry” law, which allows the public to legally carry loaded guns – including assault weapons – inside their stores. With the American gun debate in full-force, ‘pro-gun’ advocates were now exploiting that right, flaunting their loaded weapons in public.

- Concerned moms felt that this reckless behavior posed a legitimate threat to public safety, given the numerous accidental discharges & deaths that had occurred. But instead of taking a position on the matter, most major retailers stayed silent.

- Traditionally, nonprofits promoted social issues in the halls of Government. But corporations, with their connections, wider lobbying leeway, and proficiency in influence, are often better equipped to make the case for stopping domestic violence, improving safety on the roads, thwarting climate change, and fostering economic development—to name a few social change efforts.

- Over the last several years, CSR had undergone intense analysis, profound change, and new prominence. In the past, companies mostly undertook defensive CSR initiatives to mitigate the impact of their business activities or to repair their reputations. More and more, however, companies are adopting a proactive stance, viewing the improvement of relations between business and society as a new opportunity for innovation and competitive advantage.

 (Source Kyle Peterson & Marc Pfitzer, Stanford Social Innovation Review)


Through this journey of discovery and analysis, we landed on the following insights:

•  The lack of personal relevancy was holding back the public’s intellectual support from becoming a commitment to take action.

•  Though “women” were a political grouping that has long been fair game in the political arena, apolitical “moms” advocating the safety of children had more immunity.

•  Though it wasn't likely we could convince Corporations to officially lobby on our behalf, we could find new partners willing to take on our cause if we put a little pressure on them to look at role they played in the issue.

b) Communication Strategy

Taking aim at Corporate America.

Starbucks was one of the many major American retailers that allowed the public to carry armed weapons inside their stores where state ‘open carry’ laws allow it. This was despite Starbucks banning smoking 25-feet from all locations in the interest of public safety.

Our goal sharpened to “get STARBUCKS to change their corporate view and policy on carrying guns in their stores” by hitting them were in mattered most – by decreasing the number of daily trips American moms/families make to Starbucks each day.

If more moms knew they were putting their families in harms way just by visiting a Starbucks – this could be a powerful rallying cry to continue the dialogue with all Americans thereby keeping the pressure on every level of Government.

Asking moms to skip just one visit a week could translate to significant financial losses for Starbucks and quickly became the rallying cry for our unifying movement “Skip Starbucks Saturday”.

a) Media Used

The initiative was launched via grassroots initiatives and social media on July 9th, 2013 . Budget was $0.

Channels Used

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Packaging Design


b) Creative Discussion

On July 9th, #skipstarbuckssaturday was launched.

To do this we wanted to connect Starbucks directly to the plight of gun violence.

We recognized that the Starbucks cup and logo were iconic marketing symbols so we played on this by creating a stand-in cup as our key visual centerpiece. Instead of seeing the famous mermaid with her tail fins upright she was altered just slightly to have guns ablaze. (Note; best matching of message to medium)


And the check-boxes used to personalize your Starbucks drink provided additional inspiration. By reframing what those boxes say, we could personalize gun violence, with some of the real names from the more than 3000 children and teens that died from gun violence in the past year.


‘Gun Cups’ were distributed at coffee stations during Moms Demand Action rallies, as part of Skip Starbucks Saturday. Individuals could personalize their cup by calling attention to a victim of gun violence in their US state.

And we didn't stop there. #skipstarbuckssaturday #Gunsense was more than a boycott, this grassroots PR movement featured social posting of photos & videos, morning coffee drops to media, mom rallies close to Starbucks locations and clever guerilla tactics at Starbucks like asking the barista for an “extra shot of gun sense” when ordering.

And on September 18th, 2013 CEO Howard Shultz declared guns were no longer welcome inside Starbucks stores. “Skip Starbucks” was immediately replaced with “Celebrate Starbucks” with moms now actively thanking and supporting the company across all those same media channels, something our unsuspecting lobby group never saw coming.

c) Media Discussion

Without a traditional media investment, creativity was key in executing a national campaign. A conventional approach would have seen a mass advertising campaign. Instead, we embraced our limited resources to inspire some innovative thinking and used our moms as the medium and the messenger.

Our grassroots PR movement featured social posting of photos & videos, morning coffee drops to media, mom rallies close to Starbucks locations and clever guerilla tactics all worked in tandem from the launch on July 9th until September 18th when we accomplished our goal.

a) Sales/Share Results

The impact of our “Skip Starbucks Saturday” campaign was significant.

On our goal to create enough public interest and pressure on corporate America to get Starbucks to change their corporate policy on carrying guns in their stores, we delivered.

-On September 18, 2013 Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz bowed to public pressure in a national televised address that was broadcast across all major networks.

-A full-page open letter retraction from Starbucks appeared in every major US newspapers, stating a renewed corporate vision that guns were no longer welcome in its stores.

- Earned media coverage on the September 18th announcement alone exceeded 320 million PR impressions.


Against our ancillary goals we also delivered:

- We continued to grow membership and fan base for the MDA organization.

-Moms Demand Action community fan base organically increased more than 10% during the Skip Starbucks Saturday campaign, from 105,458 to 117,027 active followers.

- We continued to raise national awareness with the media and public for more sensible gun laws.

-The program actively engaged 346,097 moms across America with user-generated photo and video submissions.  Earned media from this activity totaled 3,986,864 impressions.

Additionally, this campaign garnered industry acknowledgement, winning awards at Applied Arts and receiving 3 shortlists at Cannes in Promo, direct and cyber.

b) Consumption/ Usage Results

c) Other Pertinent Results

d) Return on Investment

a) General Discussion

From a public awareness and consumer engagement standpoint, the initiatives of Skip Starbucks Saturday – were the only means of communication MDA undertook during the entire course of the campaign. There was no other activity. 

Creatively, “Skip Starbucks Saturday” and its components are the ultimate example of driving effective business results. We overachieved on each and every campaign objective and did so at virtually no cost to the organization. When measuring the effectiveness of this campaign against the explosion of awareness, public engagement, and ultimately the policy changes it brought, the ROI of “Skip Starbucks Saturday” is incalculable. 

b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels:

The budget for the campaign was $0 - results were not driven by an increase in spending. 


All campaign elements were through social media and there were no ad buys on those channels.

Distribution Changes:

Coverage has consistently been National. Aside from these listed here, no other campaign elements were used for “Skip Starbucks Saturday” during this time period. 

Unusual Promotional Activity:

The media budget was $0 and all campaign elements and channels leveraged free capabilities that the social networks provide. Because of this, the question of price-cutting or high-value promotional activity is not applicable.

Other Potential Causes:

Any applicable factors have already been detailed in this case.