Power point: Protect your brand equity

“How do you navigate through this? The key is to not make the short-term decision that would subordinate the equity of the brand.”

– Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz yesterday, when I chatted with him in New Orleans. Here with 11,000 Starbucks managers–or “partners” as he calls his employees–he was preaching the dangers of discounting and the value of social responsibility, especially when employees as well as consumers are feeling down and out. Schultz’s surprise guest was Bono, who blasted on stage to cheers worthy of, well, a rock star. But it really stunned Schultz, his team, and even Bono when even louder cheers greeted the news that Starbucks is partnering with the singer’s philanthropic Project RED. Bono was flying afterward, thrilled that the RED concept one-upped his own celebrity. “From the day we started RED,” he told me backstage, “I’ve wanted the brand to be the hero.”

Schultz, whose stock at $12.62 is trading near a seven-year low, told me that he’s seen a slight pickup in store traffic in October. Keep reading Postcards for more on Starbucks’ recovery prospects, its RED partnership, and Bono too.

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