It’s that time of year. In an unmistakable sign that the holidays are approaching, Starbucks’ red holiday cups and holiday beverages are again available in stores. Starbucks’ specially designed holiday cups have been a seasonal staple since 1997. Each year brings a new concept or design that is eagerly awaited by its loyal fan base. This year, Starbucks has unveiled its first colour-in holiday cup. The cup design starts with a pair of hands holding red cups of coffee, an ode to the red cups of years past, connected with swirling ribbons with lively holiday scenes and splashes of red and green. The rest is up to the creativity of the customer. The season’s hot beverage cup sleeve is red featuring the words “Give Good,” which is Starbuck’s theme for this year’s holiday campaign. Though it’s a paper cup that’s thrown out as soon as the hot drink in it is consumed, the cup is a big deal. Starbucks learned that the hard way in 2015 when it chose to make a plain red cup its seasonal beverage-container. That move caused an uproar from some consumers who felt it wasn’t festive enough. This year, they’ve found the sweet spot between festive and consumer empowerment. The cup itself carries more weight than the drink itself. Consumers are more likely to post and share images/videos of their purchase if the cup is “Instagram Worthy.” Thus, while you might think “who cares what it looks like,” the answer is Starbucks does as its a massive driver of sales and consumer engagement.
Additionally, they have combined the concepts of change, experimentation, social media, customer engagement, and market research and made the results key components of both their brand as well as their marketing strategy. With a strong presence on multiple social networks, the brand has set a high bar when it comes to being social and engaging its customers. They are at or near the top of nearly every major brand ranking in social media. Starbucks’ ability to wear so many hats corporate success, “local” favourite, and Internet sensation warrants strategic examination.