The Third Place and the Need State of Convenience


Newco Shift Forum 2018

Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks, in a wide ranging conversation on the role of an iconic retail brand in the age of Amazon

Kevin Johnson, CEO Starbucks, during NewCo Shift Forum 2018

The Starbucks brand is ubiquitous — especially for anyone who’s visited a major city around the world. But what’s less well known about the iconic company is its long term commitment to, in its CEO’s words, “redefine what it means to be a public company.” To kick off the second annual Shift Forum, we invited Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks, to join us in conversation about the challenges and opportunities driving a company that, even in an age of Amazon, opens one new store somewhere in the world every four hours. Below is the video interview, in full, and a transcript, edited for clarity.

John Battelle: Please join me in welcoming Kevin Johnson. He’s got his Starbucks cup. You are on brand, brother. [laughter]

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Future of Brands: Building Consumer Trust Beyond Cause Marketing


Future of Brands

Would you care if the brands you interact with everyday disappeared?

Would you care if the brands you interact with everyday disappeared? A global survey says nearly three-quarters of those asked wouldn’t. Would what we do as marketers, branding strategists, advertisers or product managers matter anymore? But before it turns into a philosophical debate about the meaning of existence, let’s quickly return to reality.

Not long ago, I attended a thought provoking event by Brand South Australia discussing the future of brands and how the “Future Enterprise” can foster trust in consumers.

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Report: Consumers Demand That Brands Have A Voice on Key Social Issues


10 Trends Now Influencing How Consumers and Brands Interact

By Sheryl Connelly, Corporate Futurist, Ford Motor Company

It used to be that consumers chose brands based solely on the products they sold. If someone liked a product or service, they typically became a loyal customer.

But today’s buyers demand more of companies. In addition to the products that line their shelves or appear in their catalogs, brands are often called upon to offer more — chiefly, a position on timely social issues.

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A Moment of Silence For Time Warner Cable


Time Warner Cable was far from perfect, but it will be difficult to let it rest in peace.

Left: the iconic former Time Warner Cable logo; Right: the new Spectrum logo — yet to become an icon?

When it comes to spewing vitriol, hell hath no fury like an angry Time Warner Cable customer. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since it has the worst customer service score in any industry, according to a 2015 survey by ACSI. A litmus test for terrible service could be when a celebrity the likes of Sir Patrick Stewart loses the will to live, or so he conveyed on Twitter.

St. Louis, MO-based Charter Communications has recently acquired both Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, making it a Jedi force to be reckoned with amongst cable providers, now serving more than 25 million customers. With Liberty Broadband’s backing as Charter’s main shareholder, a new vision for the industry as a whole might well be in the making. And with the players of that industry generally being poorly rated on customer satisfaction surveys, for Charter Communications that vision seems to require a break from what we know: terminating its legacy brands and forging a new one for all its consumer-facing cable operations — Spectrum.

The devil you know …

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Four Ways Purpose Fuels Innovation


For the last four years, NewCo Festivals have sprung up in innovation hubs all over the world, literally opening the doors of thousands of fast-growing, disruptive companies. Along the way, we’ve observed some common characteristics of these innovative businesses. Foremost is the centrality of purpose. Purpose beyond extraction of profit, or maximization of shareholder value, unlocks many benefits for nimble, fast growing businesses. Purpose helps attract talent, accelerates key partnerships, and fosters truly innovative ideas.

Pop the hood on a NewCo, and you will inevitably find a purpose-fueled engine. These can be as broad as Google’s “Organize the world’s information,” or as precise as Best Bees’ “Expand bee populations.” As my colleague In “Does your Company Know Why It Exists,” John Battelle wrote that a corporate mission should speak to solving a real problem, and ultimately, making the world a better place. A good corporate mission situates a profit generating market opportunity within a nobler cause.

HostCo office art from NewCo Oakland

And missions can’t just be slogans. They must inspire engagement in their communities of employees, investors, and customers alike. NewCos walk the talk, and align their operations so as to accomplish their stated mission. When they do, the results are extraordinary.

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Cincinnati’s Brandery Accelerates Startups By Supercharging Their Brands


This seed-stage accelerator looks beyond product to help startups differentiate themselves

The Brandery, a seed-stage accelerator, is utilizing Cincinnati’s unique resources to help startups turn minimally viable products into sustainable businesses. What resources are those? Marketing and branding agencies have grown alongside Cincinnati-based Fortune 500 Companies like Procter & Gamble, Macy’s, and Kroger. As the barriers to entry for starting companies decrease, The Brandery believes startups focused on their brands can differentiate themselves and increase their probability of success.

The accelerator accepts 10 companies into its four-month program each year. In return for a 6 percent equity stake, startups receive $50,000, access to mentorship, pro-bono work from branding agencies, and a chance to work with companies like Procter and Gamble. Those resources have helped The Brandery become one of the top accelerators in the nation. The Seed Accelerator Rankings Project lists The Brandery at the Gold tier, just under Platinum where you’ll find 500 Startups and Y Combinator.

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