For many, when Starbucks red cups return, it’s a signal that the holiday season is drawing near.
Since 1997, Starbucks has welcomed the holidays with a special red cup that celebrates the spirit of the season. Over the years, designs have ranged from the modern, using whimsical brushstrokes in bold colors, to the nostalgic, featuring mistletoe and ornaments. This year, for the first time, Starbucks red cups will feature designs created by customers with 13 distinct cups.
“We hope that this year’s red holiday cup designs express the shared spirit of the holidays as told by our customers,” said Sharon Rothstein, Starbucks global chief marketing officer.
For years Starbucks customers have been decorating their white cups (Starbucks even held a contest to support this creativity). Taking a cue from customers who had been using their red holiday cups as a canvas, last December Starbucks invited customers to share their designs on Instagram.
From Illinois to Indonesia, Pennsylvania to Korea, Dubai to Ontario, in just eight days, Starbucks received more than 1,200 individual submissions from 13 countries. Many of the images were featured in an online cup collection.
“We were surprised and inspired by the amount of incredible art submitted by our customers. The designs were beautiful, expressive and engaging,” said Dena Blevins, creative director, Starbucks Global Creative Studio. “We quickly realized there was potential to use the customer-created art for our holiday cups.”
The Starbucks Creative team printed each design posted to social channels and noticed the themes that began to emerge – graphic, inspirational, intricate, seasonal, typographic. No customer names were included, just a photo of the cup that was submitted.
“We loved how the red cups with white designs naturally created a collection,” Blevins said. “They hang together as one idea, but each expression is unique.”
Next, the Starbucks team asked a small group of customers to mail in their cup so that it could be evaluated for potential production. The team worked to honor the artists and the integrity of their artwork, making as few changes as possible to the original.
In the end, 13 customer designs were selected from six countries to represent the collective spirit of the holidays around the world. Their designs will be showcased on the holiday cups served in the more than 25,000 Starbucks stores in 75 countries.
“People will be walking around the street in Shanghai, New York and London carrying these cups,” Blevins said. “We love that this year our customers’ artistry can play a part in brightening someone’s day.”