Starbucks Ends ‘War on Christmas’ With Global Reveal of Customer-Designed Red Cups

Challenge

Each year, the arrival of red cups at Starbucks is a sign that the holidays are coming, bringing cheer to customers around the globe. After launching a minimalistic red cup in 2015 that ignited a media firestorm when conservatives claimed that Starbucks was starting a “War on Christmas,” the brand was challenged with creating a positive holiday storytelling moment in 2016. To add to the task, the U.S. election was underway in the U.S. and was receiving unprecedented levels of media attention.

Disruption

To maintain relevancy, the team developed a 2-phase approach. First leading up to the election on Nov. 1–the day red cups traditionally launch–Starbucks surprised customers and media with a new disruptive green cup that broke through with a message of unity during a divisive time and drove speculation on red cups. Then, on Nov. 10–one day after the election–the team executed the first global launch of 13 customer-designed red cups in 75 countries with 25,000 stores visited by 90 million customers a week. The launch focused on honoring the customer artists who made the cups, ensuring a positive news cycle that put Starbucks customers and their holiday traditions at the heart of the story.