Culture and trends

‘What’s Your Name’ by Starbucks | Campaign of the Week

Written by
Izzy Hall
Published on
June 6, 2022
Last updated
January 22, 2024

What this article covers

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Welcome to Campaign of the Week, where we explore some of the freshest and most exciting campaigns from the brands that are engaging their Gen Z audience and catching our attention every week. Today we’re looking at coffee company Starbucks’ 2020 campaign, ‘What’s Your Name’. 

In a recent Pion study, we revealed that 61% of Gen Zers have frequently faced gender-based stereotyping, with genderqueer respondents being significantly more likely to experience this. Today, we look at Starbucks’ 2020 ad ‘What’s Your Name’, made in partnership with creative agency Iris, which has helped young transgender people across the country to feel safe and recognised in their own skin. 

What’s the campaign about?

The emotive and powerful campaign stars James, a transgender boy who is constantly ‘deadnamed’ by those around him (the act of being referred to by your birth name, as opposed to your chosen name). However, thanks to Starbucks and their name-on-a-cup tradition, James finally finds acceptance when he places his order and sees his name on the takeaway cup.

The idea for the ad came directly from Starbucks' consumers, with a number of transgender people sharing their experiences of trialling their chosen names in Starbucks stores. As Starbucks write on their website: ‘We discovered that they found Starbucks stores to be a safe space, where their new name was accepted, and they could be recognised as they are.’ The decision to involve the impacted communities from the campaign’s creation to execution proves that Starbucks truly listens to and accepts its consumers. This is incredibly important in ensuring that your campaign (and brand) really makes a difference, and is something that we discuss further in our Voxburner+ Diversity and Inclusivity report. 

In a move that added significant value to the campaign, Starbucks partnered with Mermaids, a non-profit supporting transgender youths. Starbucks sold mermaid cookies in its UK stores and donated the profits to the charity. This monetary involvement adds real weight to the campaign, and is an excellent example of how to support a cause commercially.

On the Mermaids website, a number of transgender youths discussed the ‘What’s Your Name’ campaign, with one saying: “Looking back 20 years you wouldn’t have something like [What’s Your Name]. Most trans people are scared of trying their name, like it’s frowned upon or you’ll get ‘found out’, so it’s really positive to know you can trial your name in that space and not be scared.” Another said: “I’ve kept the cup under my bed and I don’t want to throw it away. When I look at the cup I think of the happy feeling I got when I heard the person behind the counter say my name.” 

‘What’s Your Name’ won Channel 4’s Diversity in Advertising award in 2019.

Why do we love it? 

There are so many reasons to love this campaign, but at the top of list is the way in which Starbucks supported Mermaids. There was no danger of ‘pridewashing’ here, with every action that Starbucks made throughout this campaign being guided by young transgender people, and it continued to help young people way after its release. It’s authentic, engaging and creative, and undoubtedly made a real difference to the lives of so many young people around the UK. Thank you, Starbucks!

You can watch the full ad below.

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