Starbucks’ Karin Koonings

Supporting global growth with a fully aligned global strategy and core marketing skills embedded consistently across markets

Imagine a feared, scolding global brand leader who flies in from HQ to tell a local marketing team how to run their market just so…

Sorry, that’s just not how Karin Koonings operates. Which is no doubt why Karin was such a hit in her role as head of international brand marketing at Starbucks Coffee international. A Canadian with proud Dutch roots (and conversant in four languages), Karin holds an MBA from The University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Business. An accomplished global marketer by any measure, Karin’s rise to the top – like so many of her global peers’ – started with ‘boot camp’ at one of the big global marketing companies. Today, her career spans over 20 years working for both Fortune 500 companies and start-ups.

Karin became one of Starbucks’ first Canadian marketers in 1996, where she carried out numerous progressive marketing assignments, all of which contributed to the swift growth and establishment of Starbucks as a leading global brand. Once promoted to the role of the company’s first Vice President Brand & Marketing for Starbucks International, Karin oversaw a marketing team that represented 43 countries.

‘I think the biggest challenge I had coming into the role was that there was no blueprint; I was literally starting from scratch,’ she says, reflecting on the early days of her new international role. But Karin quickly took the initiative to spearhead a massive expansion of Starbucks’ worldwide network, helping to ensure that the company maintained brand consistency everywhere.

Starbucks also strengthened local community relationships. Among the programs Karin oversaw were some that focused specifically on community-level outreach efforts. One globally structured program, for instance, helped local companies connect successfully with their neighborhoods and surrounding communities, sometimes at store level. True to her convictions and after many years of international travel, Koonings left Starbucks to focus on building iconic and purposeful brands closer to home in the Pacific Northwest, and to spend more time with her family and local community.

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“The more you can take the opinions and ‘not invented here’ out of the equation and get people to focus on tools, commonalities, and the things that are universally applicable, the more effective your marketing organization will be.”

—Karin Koonings​, Head of International Brand Marketing, Starbucks Coffee International (2004-2008)

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