Starbucks Goes Red for the Holidays

With the holiday season beginning, retailers everywhere are donning their cheer inducing gear, organizing sales, and encouraging people to engage in frenzied bouts of spending – the current recession aside of course.

And there's nothing more holidayish than red. In keeping with the holiday spirit, or perhaps more aptly in the creation of it, Starbucks has unleashed its line of red cups for the holidays. I'd be surprised if sales don’t rise significantly. Last year, there was a 140 million dollar increase in gross profit in the last quarter of 2006.

Now I'm not really a die-hard Starbucks aficionado – I'll drink anything so long as it wakes me up – but the coffee giant's latest marketing move is worth some praise.

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The red cup, dotted with white snowflakes and sporting a green Starbucks logo in the center, really does induce cheer. It makes people (well me anyway) want to drink something warm and comforting. And most importantly, it's self-advertising in a way that you just can't ignore. The red cups are so noticeable because they're new and for a limited time only, hence they stand out from the crowd. Like a pretty girl at an all boy's school, the bright red screams pay attention to me. But it does so tactfully by virtue of its exterior, in the name of holiday goodness and cheer.

On the go commuters carry the red cups everywhere, unwittingly acting as Starbucks advertising vehicles free of charge. It's only in the last few days that I've noticed how many people drink Starbucks coffee around my office – the new cups are all over the place and they're not easily missed.

In an added attempt at infusing holiday cheer in its customers, propagating the Starbucks brand (some people actually claim to mark the start of the holiday season by the launch of the red cup), and eliciting customer interaction, Starbucks has a micro-site that allows people to "start a cheer chain." This consists of dressing up a virtual you and your friend, and then sending a cheer (there are several to choose from) which is then passed on from friend to friend to friend…

All good marketing moves from a practiced retail giant that is somehow managing to indeed pass the cheer, and make some money in the bargain, seemingly without having to try all that hard.

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20 Comments

  • Theron

    This Starbucks' promotion shows the power of a specific promotional product or packaging to create anticipation and customer loyalty. What had never occurred to me is that you could use the same item or an item with slight variations to mark the season. When combined with the website to tie in to the promotion, it is very effective. Wish I would have thought of it.

  • MIchael Wood

    I must admit that I have become oblivious to Starbuck's marketing efforts especially here in Portland, OR where I pass 4 stores during my short 1 mile commute to teh office. Their stores, signs and discarded cups are a ubiquitous part of PNW culture. I just investigated the contents of my trashcan and, you guessed it, a smathering of red holiday cups.
    I'm not sure if there is anything at this stage of the game that would make me sit up and take notice of Starbucks. They have commodified themselves to the point of being just another fast-food drive through.

  • Foley

    I actually applaud Starbucks for the atmosphere they create with their music. From the unknown bands like Galactic (a personal favorite) to the founding fathers like Bob Dylan, Starbucks is competing with McDonalds on more than just what is in the cup. When was the last time you went to McDonalds to meet friends or read a book and enjoy a cup of coffee? Probably never.

    The rest of the world, McDonalds, Duncan Dounuts, etc, are just waking up to the fact that there is big money to be made if a decent cup of coffee can be provided at a reasonable(ish) price. Sure, they might take a few sales from Starbucks, but it's going to be for your basic commuter cup of coffee.

    Just a note: I can't stand Starbucks coffee and prefer McDonalds or my local coffee shop any day of the week. Unless of course I have a gift card and can get something fancy in my little red cup.

  • Michael Hoffman

    One thing overlooked here... The sleeve to keep you from burning your fingers covers up most of the cup. That is blue, with a red script "Pass the Cheer" on it.

  • Carlos Hernandez

    Well, truth be told I am a Peet's guy, but it is the Starbuck's breakfast sandwiches that bring me in!!

  • Pete Mortensen

    Starbucks is always going to be about quiet marketing triumphs, the red cup included. They don't advertise on TV, they don't do obnoxious radio commercials about being innovative, and they don't announce who they're going to beat. They just grow and grow and grow.

    Because Starbucks doesn't constantly roll out a green cup for St. Patrick's Day, a pink cup for Valentine's Day, a red, white, and blue cup for the Fourth of July, they make an impact and move the dial with the red cup. Starbucks knows how to make something feel special and rare, even though it isn't. It's in their storytelling and their culture. It's not easily assailable.

    Of course McDonald's is serious about coming after Starbucks. So what? Starbucks came after McDonald's 15 years ago and won again and again. A better cup of coffee isn't going to change that, and neither are cafe spaces for teenagers.

  • Java3232

    I agree Snorkey. I love SBUX coffee too but I think McDonalds is serious about cutting into their profits. Honestly...if McDonalds comes up with more decent coffee I will probably be stopping there a little more often. Grab some good coffee and a salad!!

  • Snorkey

    Right from the outset, let me say, I love SBUX! Having said that, the reality is McDonalds is eating away at SBUX's profits. SBUX needs more just big red cups to have investors like me hang onto their stock. Maybe getting rid of the I-Tunes free downloads of artists you never heard of (who is Sara Bareilles, Galactic, and a Fine Frenzy anyway?) or the load of has beens (Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan) that are stacked up on my desk. I think positioning the SBUX brand isn't the only thing that they should be doing.Sounds to me like a quick fix....Hmmmmmm!

  • Paul

    Marking the holiday season's start with the red SBUX cup is sooooo wrong. The true harbinger of holiday is the return of the Gingerbread Latte.

  • Joseph Allan

    This Starbucks' promotion shows the power of a specific promotional product or packaging to create anticipation and customer loyalty. What had never occurred to me is that you could use the same item or an item with slight variations to mark the season. When combined with the website to tie in to the promotion, it is very effective. Wish I would have thought of it.

  • Joseph Allan

    I must admit that I have become oblivious to Starbuck's marketing efforts especially here in Portland, OR where I pass 4 stores during my short 1 mile commute to teh office. Their stores, signs and discarded cups are a ubiquitous part of PNW culture. I just investigated the contents of my trashcan and, you guessed it, a smathering of red holiday cups.
    I'm not sure if there is anything at this stage of the game that would make me sit up and take notice of Starbucks. They have commodified themselves to the point of being just another fast-food drive through.

  • Joseph Allan

    I actually applaud Starbucks for the atmosphere they create with their music. From the unknown bands like Galactic (a personal favorite) to the founding fathers like Bob Dylan, Starbucks is competing with McDonalds on more than just what is in the cup. When was the last time you went to McDonalds to meet friends or read a book and enjoy a cup of coffee? Probably never.

    The rest of the world, McDonalds, Duncan Dounuts, etc, are just waking up to the fact that there is big money to be made if a decent cup of coffee can be provided at a reasonable(ish) price. Sure, they might take a few sales from Starbucks, but it's going to be for your basic commuter cup of coffee.

    Just a note: I can't stand Starbucks coffee and prefer McDonalds or my local coffee shop any day of the week. Unless of course I have a gift card and can get something fancy in my little red cup.

  • Joseph Allan

    One thing overlooked here... The sleeve to keep you from burning your fingers covers up most of the cup. That is blue, with a red script "Pass the Cheer" on it.

  • Joseph Allan

    Well, truth be told I am a Peet's guy, but it is the Starbuck's breakfast sandwiches that bring me in!!

  • Joseph Allan

    Starbucks is always going to be about quiet marketing triumphs, the red cup included. They don't advertise on TV, they don't do obnoxious radio commercials about being innovative, and they don't announce who they're going to beat. They just grow and grow and grow.

    Because Starbucks doesn't constantly roll out a green cup for St. Patrick's Day, a pink cup for Valentine's Day, a red, white, and blue cup for the Fourth of July, they make an impact and move the dial with the red cup. Starbucks knows how to make something feel special and rare, even though it isn't. It's in their storytelling and their culture. It's not easily assailable.

    Of course McDonald's is serious about coming after Starbucks. So what? Starbucks came after McDonald's 15 years ago and won again and again. A better cup of coffee isn't going to change that, and neither are cafe spaces for teenagers.

  • Joseph Allan

    I agree Snorkey. I love SBUX coffee too but I think McDonalds is serious about cutting into their profits. Honestly...if McDonalds comes up with more decent coffee I will probably be stopping there a little more often. Grab some good coffee and a salad!!

  • Joseph Allan

    Right from the outset, let me say, I love SBUX! Having said that, the reality is McDonalds is eating away at SBUX's profits. SBUX needs more just big red cups to have investors like me hang onto their stock. Maybe getting rid of the I-Tunes free downloads of artists you never heard of (who is Sara Bareilles, Galactic, and a Fine Frenzy anyway?) or the load of has beens (Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan) that are stacked up on my desk. I think positioning the SBUX brand isn't the only thing that they should be doing.Sounds to me like a quick fix....Hmmmmmm!

  • Joseph Allan

    Marking the holiday season's start with the red SBUX cup is sooooo wrong. The true harbinger of holiday is the return of the Gingerbread Latte.