Is P.C. the new P.R. strategy for Starbucks? Examining the Starbucks cup design fiasco that became too hot to handle
By: Eleonora Yurkevich, Colorado State University PRSSA Chapter Member
Opponents to a new, simpler cup design are blaming Starbucks for taking “Christmas” out of the cups, as well as being overly politically correct. In the end, Starbucks – the stock price of which has risen four-fold over the last decade – issued a rather effective press release, while enjoying loads of free P.R. through the public debate, which has managed to attract commentary from such celebrities as: Stephen Colbert, Rob Lowe, Demi Lovato and presidential hopeful Donald Trump, to name a few.
In response to the debate, Starbucks issued a press release in which Jeffrey Fields, the company’s vice president of design and content, emphasized that this was purely a design decision and nothing more – a “two-toned ombré design,” as he described.
Fields emphasized that the cup’s design has been in constant transition throughout the years, metamorphosing from “a jazz-themed design” to “modern vector-illustrated characters.”
The release concluded with a statement about diversity and inclusion: “Starbucks will continue to embrace and welcome customers from all backgrounds and religions in our stores around the world.”
The very next day, Starbucks issued another release, introducing their “exclusive Christmas Blend.”
In the end, effective marketers and publicists were probably able to take advantage of the buzzing social media and celebrity commentary to #RidetheWave of the Starbucks #redcup debate.
Is all P.R. good P.R.? Has this debate been a success for the company’s publicity? Let us know what you think.