Starbucks’ Red Cup Design Was a Bad Idea… Or Was It?

If you haven’t heard by now, much of society has been in an uproar because of Starbucks’ annual holiday cups. Each year, the coffeehouse chain features a red cup with a festive Christmassy decoration such as snowflakes, ornaments, Christmas tree branches, and more:

Starbucks

2009

SBcup10

2010

SBcup11

2011

Sbcup12

2012

SBcup13

2013

SBcup14

2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This year, however, Starbucks decided to forgo the decorations and release a plain red cup:

Starbucks

2015

Many Starbucks customers look forward to the festive cups every holiday season, but without the decorations this year, the plain red cup turned them against the company and sparked an onslaught of controversy.

Much of the uproar can be traced to a man named Joshua Feuerstein, an Evangelist who calls himself a “social media personality.” On November 5th, he posted a Facebook video that went viral, stating that Starbucks “removed Christmas from their cups because they hate Jesus.” As of today, the video has more than 15 million views and hundreds of Christians have taken his side in the matter, posting their dislike on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media outlets.

Starbucks got wind of the situation and explained that their plain red cups were meant to cater to all religions and offer a way for customers to make them their own.

In a Wall Street Journal article, Starbucks’ vice president of design and content Jeffrey Fields, says, “In the past, we have told stories with our holiday cups designs. This year we wanted to usher in the holidays with a purity of design that welcomes all of our stories.”

Unconvinced, Christians have taken to either boycotting the company or making themselves heard by joining in on Feuerstein’s “prank”: In order to trick Starbucks into writing “Merry Christmas” on his cup, he ordered a drink and told the the barista his name was “Merry Christmas.” He then urged his followers to do the same and to post the results with the hashtag “#MerryChristmasStarbucks.

Why the Uproar Is a Good Thing

While some have refused to purchase Starbucks products, many others have gone the #MerryChristmasStarbucks route. This not only gives Starbucks more business, but photos and videos of the cups have gone viral on social media and have helped spread around the Starbucks name. Some customers have also taken the event as an opportunity to express their backlash against the whole thing – in which case, they buy a Starbucks drink and write their own message on the cup.

According to Forbes, a red cup was posted on Instagram once every 14 seconds last holiday season; that was just on Instagram and when there was no controversy. This year, the statistic can only go up, which means Starbucks is getting even more exposure. In addition, with an influx of customers trying to make a point (whether it’s siding with Feuerstein or lashing out against him), they’re actually profiting from the cup design.

Whether this was planned marketing stunt or not, it’s safe to say that it will be a Merry Christmas for Starbucks after all.

*Photos courtesy of Time.com

Client Spotlight

Check out some of the work we've done to help these clients succeed: