March 2011

R.E.M.: Collapse Into Obsession

R.E.M. has always been one of those bands who are easy to obsess about. Whether over frontman Michael Stipe’s oft-impenetrable lyrics, the unique synergy/chemistry of the band’s lineup (Stipe, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Bill Berry), the band’s quite intriguing video output, Buck’s work as a producer and with various side projects or even Stipe’s friendship with Mario Battali on the television series Iconoclasts. Each is just another facet of a once “alternative” band out of Athens, Georgia, that made good and blew up big.

My own minor personal obsession with the band began in the early ’80s when I came across the video for their first single, “Radio Free Europe,” on the then-fledgling television network, MTV (Yes, as the old trope goes, this was when the network favored videos over reality programming). Their jangly guitar pop stood out from nearly all of the other New Wave and pop bands just hitting, and the video for the song was a much less glossy version of what passed as a music video back then.

While I wasn’t cool enough to be one of those who carried the Chronic Town EP around with them wherever they went, heralding the arrival of the Next Big Thing like some post-punk town crier, I was aware of it. Yet it wasn’t until 1987’s Document and the classic single “The One I Love,” that a full-blown love affair transpired. I recall actual disbelief when I first heard the single played on Top 40 radio, a crossover virtually unheard of at that time. Had some hipster deejay suddenly commandeered the airwaves for approximately three minutes and 18 seconds?

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Inspired Moments

Moments. They are powerful.

We work to create inspired moments every day in our stores. When we get these moments right, they create ripples that reach far beyond our walls. Those moments are not just meant to happen in our stores, they are meant to happen in our neighborhoods too.

It’s my community service story. It’s about creating that moment.

And I’ve learned time and time again that when I work hard to create that moment for others, the most impactful moment is the one I experience myself. The moment I am given when I choose to give. The moment when I realize the world is bigger than just my world. The moment I realize I have the power to make a difference in that world. The moment that I really experience life. Experience acceptance. Experience humanity.

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What Is Your Community Story?

As I look ahead to celebrating the Global Month of Service, I can say with confidence that my story began on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2008.

This was the date when 10,000 partners came together in New Orleans to give back to a community devastated by a natural disaster. The number of families we helped during the course of that one day was unbelievable. And 10,000 partners walked away from that experience knowing what’s possible when people unite for a common goal.

Last November, my district decided to collect basic personal supplies (soap, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.) in our stores for Fill a Stocking, Fill a Heart. This nonprofit organization provides low-income families with holiday stockings filled with essential items. We delivered 1,000 such items to their headquarters and also helped with the setup for their annual fundraising dinner. With 12 fellow partners and less than four hours, we turned an impersonal banquet room into a vivid and lively space.

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The Return of Rhymin’ Simon

The sound of Paul Simon’s voice is one of my earliest musical memories. I had a big brother who owned all the Simon & Garfunkel records. Unlike just about anything else, there was no debate about whether they were acceptable hi-fi material, which is quite a statement since I come from a large family with diverging tastes. But even my mom, whose preferences ran to big-band music and pop-vocal stylists, found the duo more than acceptable. They could sing like choir boys when they chose to, and she appreciated that.

All these years later, Simon continues to make music that is adventurous yet accessible. Simon’s latest, So Beautiful or So What, is being greeted with glowing reviews, with Rolling Stone championing it as his best since 1986’s landmark Graceland and Filter calling the Hear Music/Concord Music Group effort “a new masterpiece from the Picasso of music.” Heady stuff!

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Our Next 40 Years Begins Now

On Tuesday, March 8, Starbucks marks its 40th year – and as part of the celebration, we’ll start rolling out the new logo we announced a few months back.

The first place you’ll probably see the new logo is on the cup of your favorite beverage. It could be a while before the signage in your neighborhood store is changed – it takes a while to update 16,500 stores!  

For communication professionals and design nerds like me, this is an exciting time. Watching the reaction to any new logo is fascinating, because people can hold such passionate attachments to these marks. The comments on our Facebook page and blog posts were decidedly mixed – some of you don’t like the new look at all, some of you think you’ll love it once you get used to it. (Honestly, that was pretty much the reaction we were expecting.)  The verdict from the design community has generally been more positive, and even the voice behind the hilarious (but fake) Gap Logo Twitter account lent support.

For those of you who aren’t sold on the new mark, all I ask is this: give it time. As you start to see it out in the world, I hope you’ll start to appreciate the simplicity and elegance of the new design. I like the new mark because I feel that we’ve unleashed the Siren, a mythological figure who represents the romance and creativity that inspired the founders of Starbucks 40 years ago. I hope that unleashing that energy – that mojo – will keep us (and you) inspired for the next 40 years.

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We Made it a Day On, Not a Day Off

When I started as a Starbucks partner in 1996, we were opening up new markets on the East Coast and doing everything we could to let people know about Starbucks and what we believed in. We were passionate about giving back to the communities that welcomed us.

I’m so fortunate to have participated in store openings in Kentucky, Tennessee, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Starbucks partners (employees) have always proudly represented our values at AIDS walks, breast cancer walks, park cleanups and youth events. Where there was passion for a cause, there were Starbucks partners and lots of coffee to keep everyone going.

Fifteen years later, I can tell you that we are as passionate as ever about giving back to communities. This year, I was in the Washington, D.C. market with a group of 120 partners who humbled me with their passion to give back. For MLK Day, we challenged ourselves to “make it a day on instead of a day off.”

Here’s a snapshot of the partners who inspired me on that day. As we approach our Global Month of Service, in April, the partners of D.C. are so excited to come together in support of the environment, food banks and young leaders.



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Come Rain or Come Shine

Ella Fitzgerald’s voice – happy, full and floating – has long been one we’ve fallen in love to. One of the greatest singers of the 20th century, the “First Lady of Song” had a voice both powerful and exhilarating.

On our Opus Collection, Let’s Fall In Love, Ella’s work – from perfect swing numbers to her classic definitive ballads – and her magnificent voice are showcased in a variety of settings. She had the ability to blend in perfectly with orchestras, adding her voice like the most natural of instrumental complements. A terrific scat singer, who could improvise a melody as well as any instrumentalist, her creativity knew no bounds and her voice filled songs with consummate happiness for the entire 63 years of her career.

Her spirited delivery always fit the mood of a particular song – sometimes girlish, sometimes sophisticated, but always flawless. To every song she brought strikingly gorgeous phrasing that was full of life, illuminating the nuances of a song with technical precision and emotional mastery.

She sang the songs of the century with the best musicians of the century, and, in turn, became the singer of the century.

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