Just last month, Starbucks opened their first-ever U.S. shop to use American Sign Language (ASL) and cater to consumers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. This shop was inspired by the first global Starbucks store to implement ASL, which is located in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
How does Starbucks tailor its experience to deaf consumers?
Located in Washington, D.C., near Gallaudet University, a private college for deaf students or those who suffer from hearing loss, the new U.S. Starbucks Signing Store is led by a team of 24 who are all fluent in ASL. Customers can either sign to order or write down their orders on a tablet.
The Starbucks ASL store posts a new “sign of the week” on their chalkboard every week, which includes a hand-drawn example of the hand gesture and the featured word or phrase. The sign of the week seems to be an initiative to teach verbal individuals more about ASL. During the shop’s debut week, the sign of the week was, appropriately, “coffee.”
The Starbucks ASL shop also includes a large and colorful mural painted by Yiqiao Wang, a deaf artist and professor at Gallaudet University, which is meant to craft a sense of community for those relying on ASL. Plus, the baristas wear specifically designed aprons that spell Starbucks in sign language, and the shop sells unique mugs, designed by deaf artist Jena Floyd.
How does the addition of an ASL store evolve the Starbucks brand?
Known for their role as an advocate for the disabled, Starbucks holds true to their core values with the new coffee shop that supports the deaf community.
The Washington Post notes the rate of unemployment and underemployment for those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing rests at a disheartening 70%. While Starbucks has created a safe space for deaf consumers to order and enjoy their beverages, the brand has also enabled deaf individuals searching for work.
Millennials and Generation Z want companies to take a stand and work to better our communities. From Nike helping athletes like Colin Kaepernick dream to Estee Lauder working to end breast cancer, brands around the world are showing marketers it is possible to contribute to society while increasing sales. Starbucks, the fifth most admired company in the world, based on Fortune magazine rankings, continues to up its game and encourage those around it to do the same.
Starbucks has also been recognized as a top employer for disability hiring and inclusion and a “Best Place to Work” by scoring 100 out of 100 on the Disability Equality Index Survey, administered by the American Association of People with Disabilities and the U.S. Business Leadership Network.
Building and maintaining a positive reputation is a key goal of brand managers. The inclusive environment of the Starbucks brand, corporate environment and store settings has painted a welcoming reputation that partners (the name for all Starbucks employees) and their customers believe in.
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