Posted by: practicalglobalrelations | February 1, 2010

Starbucks Banned from Forbidden City

The ever-so-popular global coffee brand first started opening it’s now 400 shops across China in 1999. Starbucks has served to be a highly successful multi-national corporation. However, when the company opened a store inside Beijing’s Forbidden City it managed to only thrive until July 2007.  While reading Gang (Kevin) Han and Ai Zhang’s public relations review on this story I wondered, “How could a successful global empire such as Starbucks go under?” It was interesting to read on to find out that the closing of the particular outlet had nothing to do with profits; instead, it was the product of web-based activism and one influential blogger.

Bloggers have become a huge influence to public relations communication and a man named Rui definitely proved it. This media celebrity blogger posted that the presence of a Starbucks coffee shop had “undermined the Forbidden City’s solemnity and trampled over Chinese culture;” This one individual was powerful enough to create an international public relations campaign, but he also challenged his rights of Internet-based communication.

I imagine that this was an extremely interesting, yet difficult, case for the public relations division of Starbucks. This is a case where they would have to dig into China’s cultural history and come up with a strategic solution to blend the multi-national company with the rich, “museum” culture that the public (the blogger and his thousands of followers) feel so strongly about. Sounds like a good opportunity for a very strategic public relations campaign to me. So, for those of you looking to sip on that renowned vanilla latte while visiting the Forbidden City, you may want to plan to enjoy other attractions in one of China’s most sacred places.

 This image is a product of Google Images.

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