Coffee cup tempest

by | Nov 19, 2015 | Featured, Uncategorized

Social media has been abuzz with news and commentary on the now infamous red Starbucks holiday cups. With the holidays fast approaching, it is no surprise that they have come out with a new cup design. Every year, the cup is a bit different. But this time, Starbucks decided to go with a minimalist approach and print a red cup with a green logo, nothing more. And for some reason this has people up in arms about a “war on Christmas”.

But really, what’s the big deal? I spoke with several students around campus and they all agreed. The whole argument is just stupid. There seems to be a lot of media buzz about people complaining about the lack of holiday spirit but no one actually sees anyone doing the complaining. The cup is merely a container for your hot liquid. So why does it need to be anything more?

Marketing may be the answer to the debate. Dana Heck, a student of NAIT’s business management program, says “Starbucks is using people to advertise for them, hoping we are too dumb to figure it out.”

Whether intentionally or not, Starbucks has received a huge amount of free advertising. For every like, share or retweet the debate gets, that’s one less person Starbucks needs to market to. They are getting their product across without needing to spend a dime. As the old adage says, any press is good press. Now that the debate has started, they can just ride the waves of fame.

Some major players are making their voices heard on the red cup debate. Weird Al Yankovic has produced a parody cup of his own design making fun of the issue. Steven Colbert has voiced his opinion on it. And even US presidential candidate Donald Trump has made a statement, basically saying “who cares”. And that’s just it, no one does.

What does Starbucks say about the issue? For years people have drawn doodles on their coffee cups. Starbucks maintains that these cups are a place for people to put their own messages and designs. The cup is meant to embrace the simplicity and the quietness of the season. It becomes a blank canvas for customers to tell their own story. Then people will get the chance to make it something personal, not something corporate. And the red cups are generic enough that they can keep producing them far past the Christmas season into Valentine’s Day and beyond.

So get your coffee with a nice snowy scene if you want to. Or get it in a plain red cup. Christmas can be more than just snowmen and snowflakes. It can be whatever you want it to be. The cups may be ugly but that is no need for a huge outrage. It’s not a war, it’s just marketing. And the holiday season embraces dozens of different festivals of cultures from around the world. So why should a major company like Starbucks need to get bogged down in choosing just one?

Many of the places in the world where they serve coffee don’t even get snow. In today’s world, I’m sure we can find something more important to argue about.


Joel Leckie

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