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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.


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.