The Starbucks Coffee marketing research department is kept busy providing oodles and oodles of insights into the Starbucks brand through yearly brand audits. And take it from this former long-time Starbucks marketer: The company learns a lot from these studies.

However, when it comes to measuring and managing the Starbucks brand on a daily basis, the Starbucks marketing department generally relies on a much simpler method—a brand checkbook.

Just as your personal checkbook has credits and debits, a brand checkbook has credits and debits in the form of brand credits and brand debits. "Brand credits" are business activities that enhance the reputation and perception people have of a brand, and "brand debits" are those that detract from the reputation and perception of the brand.

When faced with determining the appropriateness of marketing activities such as a promotion, sponsorship, program, or special event, the marketing department first determines whether the activity is a brand credit or debit.

To determine the positive impact (credit) or negative impact (debit) of a potential marketing activity, Starbucks marketers ask the following questions:

  • Does the marketing activity respect the intelligence of Starbucks customers?

  • Can Starbucks expertly deliver on all the promises made to customers in the proposed activity?

  • Will Starbucks employees be excited and motivated by the activity?

  • Will customers view the marketing activity as being clever, original, genuine, and authentic?

If the marketing department answered "yes" to three of these four questions, then the activity is considered a brand credit.

On the other hand, if Starbucks marketers answered "no" to more than one question, then the activity would be considered a brand debit. The Starbucks marketing department would then need to discuss the business importance of doing that brand debit activity.

An example of a brand-credit marketing activity is when Starbucks wrestled with the idea of running a sweepstakes promotion.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Moore was formerly in marketing at Starbucks Coffee and Whole Foods Market; he now runs the Brand Autopsy Marketing Practice (www.brandautopsy.com) and is the author of TRIBAL KNOWLEDGE: Business Wisdom Brewed from the Grounds of Starbucks Corporate Culture (www.tribalknowledge.biz).