To say the past week has been exhausting for the nation is an understatement. Our nation is more divided than ever, and social media provides us all with a front-row seat to the mayhem. So, this blog will have absolutely nothing to do with politics. There will be none of that here. No, this is going to be about two things that are near and dear to the hearts of most Americans - nay, most human beings. So, take off your “Make America Great Again” caps and your “I’m With Her” buttons and sit down, shut up, and grab a cup of your favorite hot beverage.
This past week, Starbucks announced its new cups for the 2016 holiday season. They are red and decorated with unique designs created by Starbucks customers from around the world. The popular coffee chain is also keeping their plain red cup, which caused quite the kerfuffle this same time last year when customers took to social media to decry the cups’ lack of adequate festivity (shhh...nobody tell them about Festivus).
Upon further investigation, I discovered an article from inc.com that made the bold claim that not all negative PR is necessarily bad. In journalism school, a prevalent theme in most classes is that you always want to pursue a positive perception of your brand over a negative one. This article, however, argues that not only can negative PR still be completely ethical, but it can actually help a brand that has reached the top of its market stay relevant in the mind of the consumer.
Starbucks never intended to offend or hurt anyone with their original 2015 plain red cup. The controversy grew through the uncontrolled media of social networking, teeming with people angry that the lack of an outright acknowledgment of Christmas meant that Starbucks was denying the spirit of the holiday and people who were angry at those people for being angry in the first place. The fact that they would bring it back for a second round this year seemed crazy, until you consider how much the coffee chain had to gain in terms of public relations brownie points.
Starbucks harnessed the negative energy generated last year and turned it into a feel-good, inclusive campaign that celebrates not only its drinks, but showcases its consumers as well. The new cups were designed by real customers, and there’s no denying that they are festive enough for even the most persnickety of critics.
The ultimate signifier of Starbucks’ success in 2016 is that this year’s campaign was able to generate a new wave of media attention could have easily just stopped in 2015. By taking that momentum and redirecting it into fresh ideas, Starbucks made lemonade out of lemons, and as a result the War on Christmas! has been postponed until further notice.