The Red Holiday Cup

Written by: Courtney SaundersEdited by: Shanice Atkins-Broome

“Can I Please Have a Grande Peppermint Mocha? Hold the Red Holiday Cup.”

With the unveiling of the 2015 Starbucks red holiday cup on November 1st, many have taken to social media to unleash their feelings about this year’s design. Why is there such uproar over a coffee cup, one might ask? You could say it all boils down to two things: publicity and visibility.

Every November, Starbucks releases their highly anticipated holiday cup design alongside their holiday drinks menu -just in time for Christmas. Starbucks, as like any company. has become increasingly conscious of the need to be culturally and religiously inclusive due to the gladly welcomed diversity represented throughout North America. However, Starbucks’ diversity inclusivity mindset isn’t something new. Rather, it began years ago with the launch of the holiday drinks menu, ensuring that their seasonal promotional campaign was inclusive and that it positively resonated with all customers.

Starbucks states that their 2015 holiday cup, a solid red design, with their iconic green Starbucks logo, takes on a more simplistic and holistic look. This look provides customers a “blank canvas” and a chance to “create a story of their own” expressing the holiday or Christmas in their own unique way. However, customers and concerned citizens are in an uproar over the removal of symbols of the season like ornaments, reindeer, snowman, and snow from the red holiday cup that have been featured in the past.

Those lashing out on social media believe that Starbucks is taking the ‘Christ’ out of ‘Christmas’, silencing the Christianity religion by not featuring iconic holiday symbols on their cups. While Starbucks stands strong behind the need to create a culture of belonging, inclusion and diversity.

But what if that’s what Starbucks was going for? A cup that elicited argument through a healthy, controversial, public debate that revolved around an issue that people were passionate about, automatically conjuring up authentic emotions and opinions. In this case, the saying “all PR is good PR” should really be examined. Because why, year-after-year of having creatively and elegantly designed red holiday cups, would Starbucks make the decision to have a plain red cup absent of any of their usual holiday symbols?

The 2015 red holiday cup perfectly fits the Starbucks corporate values of diversity and inclusion. Therefore, Starbucks didn’t bend any cultural inclusion rules, or stray away from their ‘holiday’ themed yearly promotion strategy. With Starbucks being a successful billion-dollar corporation, was the commotion and noise caused by this year’s red holiday cup really an unforeseen accident? Or, is there a small possibility that the seemingly harmless and innocent solid red-coloured holiday cup was created the way it was to cause the controversy, visibility and heated discussion that it did?