Oxfam’s "Make Trade Fair" Campaign Against Starbucks

by: Christie L. Nordhielm

Publication Date: February 1, 2008
Length: 22 pages
Product ID#: 1-428-664

Core Disciplines: International Business, Marketing/Sales

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Teaching Note

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Oxfam and a coalition of allies asked Starbucks to sign an agreement to allow the country of Ethiopia to control the names of coffees grown in certain areas of the country. According to one coalition member, gaining control of the name brands could increase Ethiopia’s coffee export income by more than $88 million annually. This money could go a long way to help lift millions of Ethiopians out of poverty. This case provides a unique opportunity to explore social marketing from the perspectives of both Oxfam, a non-profit activism group, and Starbucks, a corporation that touts its corporate social responsibility initiatives.

Teaching Objectives

After reading and discussing the material, students should:

  • Analyze what made Oxfam's campaign successful and identify strategies for social marketers to break through “cause clutter” and the overwhelming amount of information available on the Internet.
  • Explore the possibility that corporations that market themselves as being socially responsible may be more vulnerable to backlash from NGOs and governments for not being socially responsible enough.
  • Highlight the challenge non-profits face in controlling the actions of vehement supporters who may overstep the boundaries of consumer activism and engage in consumer terrorism.
  • Discuss the pros and cons of using internet based viral marketing to build support for a cause.