It often takes tragedy to put life’s challenges in perspective. The horrific acts of terror in Paris this week are no exception. My wife’s family lives in Paris; in fact, one set of cousins resides just blocks away from where some of the murders took place. We were relieved to hear they’re all OK–grieving, but safe. How seemingly appropriate that this week’s Public Relations Nation features a guest post from one of my students, Aislinn Murphy, who writes about the recent Starbucks controversy over the design–or lack thereof–of its holiday cups. How silly it seems that some are so concerned that there are no longer snowflakes and snowmen on their coffee cups. Life is too short and uncertain to be protesting about such trivial nonsense, and I’m glad Starbucks is sticking to its plan by not succumbing to those who believe the red cups are an assault on Christmas. Please read Aislinn’s post and share your thoughts. — Jeff Morosoff
This month, Starbucks released its seasonal red cup. While its “regular” cups all feature the siren logo along with the drink specifications boxes, the winter seasonal cups tend to change up a bit and, within the past five years, have included snowflakes and snowmen, carolers, snow covered trees, a nutcracker, and even gold ornaments. What these cups all have in common is their simple red background. This year’s cup is just red.
To be clear, Starbucks has not been advertising these cups as “Christmas” cups or even Christmas themed. However, the company does sell “Christmas Blend” coffee and it has been featured on shelves for years; at least it has been for the three and a half years this writer has worked there and in the year since leaving.
Starbucks’ comment on all of this? “In the past, we have told stories with our holiday cups designs,” said Jeffrey Fields, Starbucks’ vice president of design and content. “This year we wanted to usher in the holidays with a purity of design that welcomes all of our stories.”
It is these stories and the images patrons have been doodling on their cups that Starbucks has taken note of recently, and has embraced in their cup choices whether paper or reusable.
Starbucks is an organization that works hard to maintain its positive image including reliable branding and product quality and participate in various corporate social responsibility initiatives. So what does this cup controversy mean for its public relations? Probably nothing major. Starbucks released a statement, not apologizing, just simply and clearly explaining their design choice, which aligns with other design initiatives it has implemented in the past. Starbucks’ holiday cups do not normally become a trending topic and do not normally gain this much attention. However, maybe in this case, any publicity is good publicity.
Honestly, I am not going to stop drinking coffee and am certainly not going to stop purchasing my coffee from Starbucks. With all that in mind, what do you think of the company’s recent publicity and will you stop purchasing Starbucks products? Your thoughts?
Aislinn is a public relations graduate student at the Lawrence Herbert School of Communication at Hofstra University. When she isn’t in class, she is working with the Hofstra University Writing Center, doing PR for Her Campus, and working at the Hofstra University Center for Academic Excellence. Her interests range from Harry Potter and chilling on the beach to gender equality and writing pedagogy.