How Howard Schultz Elevated The Art Of Corporate Storytelling

Forbes September 7, 2018

Inspiring leaders, like Howard Schultz, are great storytellers. This is his signature story.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)


On a business trip in Milan in 1983 for the recently created Starbucks corporation, “I went past one coffee bar after another and was captivated,” he recalled last month in Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper. “The symphony of flavor, the romance and showmanship that coffee could create — I was in heaven.” He wanted to create a similar culture, “a third place been work and home”, in Seattle. His partners didn’t like his idea. Schultz left Starbucks, opened a store infused with that culture. Two years later, he bought Starbucks from his original partners.

Business professors David and Jennifer Aaker define signature stories as “an intriguing, authentic, involving story with a strategic message that enhances the brand, the customer relationship, the organization, and/or the business strategy.” Schultz repeated it throughout his career. It includes the three dimensions of authentic brands, defined by marketing professor Julie Napoli: heritage, sincerity, and commitment to quality. Customers buy a set of values.

“Every company must stand for something,” Howard Schultz says. “A company can grow big without losing the passion and personality that built it, but only if it’s driven by values and by people. The key is heart.”

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