Category News & Work

Is a red cup really that special? – A look at Christmas brand engagement


As Christmas draws closer, most people are familiar with seeing a brand’s marketing efforts become increasingly festive. The holiday season is a chance to capitalise on major events and multiply their momentum with customer’s joy and excitement. Not only do businesses spend millions on producing great Christmas Ads, but many invest heavily into campaigns targeted at the most merry of us.

Coffee giant Starbucks which has 20,000 stores worldwide and almost $15bn in revenue decided on a physical approach and launched its first festive cup in 1997. The new 2015 Christmas cup features a simple design, being plain red in colour and only featuring the Starbucks logo. Vice president of design and content, Jeffrey Fields, said in a press release “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.”

So there we have it, the Starbucks designer took some time off so we could make what we want of the cups. The company has been appearing regularly in the media recently after the release of the blank cups has had a mixed response from online followers…

Red cup 1

Although it seems Starbucks may have made a mistake this year, the red cup campaigns have a proven track record of success over the last few years with surges of popularity around the Starbucks brand every winter. The campaign also has a powerful social media presence, with a Starbucks representative quoted as stating “within the first 48 hours of red Starbucks cups launching last year, a photo of a Starbucks holiday cup was shared on Instagram every 14 seconds” – that’s almost as much as selfies.

Red cup 2

So why would the marketing and creative teams over at one of the world’s largest coffee companies bother to spend their money on blank cups, especially since it’s almost obvious the lack-lustre designs wouldn’t go down as well?

The most obvious reason is the PR potential, millions of people including various celebrities have commented on the brand and their new blank cups, sparking media frenzy with thousands of social media posts and an influential online presence. That sort of PR would cost millions to achieve, even though some of it may be incredibly negative.

But it’s not only Starbucks which have gained exposure from their release. Other companies have spotted an opportunity to get themselves in the limelight and jumped on the bandwagon. Dunkin Donuts released this festive ‘Joy’ cup shortly after which gained a much more positive response.

Red cup 3


Well played, Dunkin Donuts.