The Innovator 25 Corey DuBrowa


The Innovator 25: Corey DuBrowa

SVP, global communications at Starbucks since 2010

Seattle, WA

Influence & Engagement, 20+ years

"We are $14+billion company with an average transaction price of $5. That places a lot of weight and pressure on the power of our people to become the brand experience. If we don’t convey this to our people, they can’t fulfill that."

For spearheading a communications campaign that resulted in the rare appearance of a corporate CEO appearing on Comedy Central’s cynical satire the Daily Show — with host Jon Stewart declaring it’s his job to hate everything — but he had a hard time hating Starbucks’ tuition employment reimbursement program with Arizona State University. For recognizing the full scope of influence in today’s world and putting in motion campaigns that mobilize everyone from customers to employees. And for advocating for — and setting an example of — a communications philosophy that is led by action rather than words.

In what area of marketing/PR do you see the most innovation?
Content creation & creative copy

How would you describe the communications/PR industry’s level of innovation?
About the same as other marketing disciplines.

Where do you see the greatest opportunity for marketing & PR to become more innovative?
Planning & analytics

Who most influences how innovative a brand’s marketing/PR is?

How do you define innovation?
Somewhat akin to the way it is articulated on “Project Runway:” a breakthrough idea or creative endeavor that hasn’t been seen before and isn’t boring… vanilla… expected.

Most innovative PR/comms campaign you’ve seen in the last 12 months?
I worked at Nike for many years; the “Find Your Greatness” campaign is SO perfectly in their strike zone. Loved it.

What brands and/or agencies are most innovative when it comes to marketing/PR?
Nike; Warby Parker; Beats; this little Seattle coffee company called Starbucks!; and Wieden + Kennedy.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider ‘innovative.’
Working on the Starbucks College Achievement Plan in partnership with Arizona St. university — it solves a very specific question we were seeking to answer about the next defining benefit for our people, but in a way that is very much in tune with something that is also good for American society (creating more college graduates vs. just attendees).

Who is your mentor and why?
My mentor WAS and remains the amazing Dr. Willis Winter of the University of Oregon. One of the most extraordinary teachers I’ve ever encountered. And someone who taught me so much more outside the classroom than within it. A hero.

How do you get inspired?
My team. Ideas. Coffee. Music. Relationships. Coffee.  Sunshine.  Coffee. (I’m not kidding)

Advice for people seeking to bring new ideas, ways of doing things to their organizations?
There is nothing wrong with loving the hell out of everything. Negative people find their walls. So never apologize for your enthusiasm. Never. Ever. Never.

In your opinion, what’s the most innovative place in the world? This could be a city, a venue, a neighborhood, etc.
The workroom on “Project Runway” and the inside of any amazing chef’s kitchen. Oh, and Electric Lady Studios and and Muscle Shoals aren’t bad either.

What’s your favorite time of day and why?
I’ve always been a morning person. I have a strong associations with coffee, sunrises and creativity. I don’t have the data to support this but a lifetime’s worth of habit has kind of solidified the behavior.