The Global CMO Interview: Annie Young-Scrivner, Starbucks

'Local Relevance Became a Tipping Point for Innovation in Other Markets'

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CHICAGO ( -- Left for dead by some experts two years ago, Starbucks is in the midst of a substantial turnaround. Same-store sales swung positive on a global basis during the first quarter of this year, up 4% on a 1% increase in traffic and a 4% increase in average ticket.

Annie Young-Scrivner
Annie Young-Scrivner
Now the marketer that rose to prominence through grass-roots tactics by eschewing TV advertising is running two campaigns simultaneously, one for Via and one for the "any way you want it" Frappuccino. Starbucks is also promoting its first foray into flavored coffee, the result of two years of R&D. It's all part of an effort to get a bigger piece of the overall coffee market. And that's just in the U.S.

Helming global efforts is Starbucks' global CMO, Annie Young-Scrivner, who is leaning on her international work experience and longtime love of the brand as she steers the company's stable into an era of more traditional marketing. She joined Starbucks in September 2009 after serving as CMO at Quaker, was born in Taiwan and has worked in 26 countries.

There's a lot on her plate. The company is now building up its consumer package goods business, launching Via, its instant coffee product, in a handful of countries. The company is keeping its focus on building the innovation pipeline (in the U.S., Starbucks recently launched its first flavored coffees with partner Kraft) and customizing global best practices, not just to boost ROI but to nurture marketing talent for the long term, Ms. Young-Scrivner said.

Ad Age: What brought you to Starbucks?

Ms. Young-Scrivner: I've been here eight months, but I've been a friend of the brand forever. I was born in Asia, but grew up in Seattle, and so I'm coming back home. I've had this intimate relationship with Starbucks all over the world, I've worked in 26 countries and I was always looking for my Starbucks and collecting my Starbucks mugs wherever I went. So I've known the brand intimately as a customer. It's a tremendous opportunity to have experienced the brand as a customer and understand the brand from a very global view of how we show up.

Ad Age: You've been growing a lot in Europe and Asia. What are some examples of international opportunities?

Ms. Young-Scrivner: We continue to have very solid plans for China. As we expand outside of the U.S. and get more depth in [international] markets, we're finding lots of best practices and innovation that we can bring back. There are so many examples of creativity, like flat white [a milk and espresso beverage] in the U.K., black sesame [and] green tea Frappuccino in China. Green tea Frappuccino came from an international market and we launched it here. The local relevance became a tipping point for innovation in other markets for the brand.

Ad Age: How is your marketing evolving?

Ms. Young-Scrivner: We're building digital and social media, and we've quickly developed more of a traditional media competency. However, I think the largest opportunity is finding a balance of traditional and nontraditional media as we continue to leverage the strength of our brand. That's especially true in markets where our footprint is small, where we're beginning to create the third-place experience for our customers.

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