Starbuck’s Holiday Cup Controversy: In Defense of Color
Karen Schnelwar, Head of Strategy, New York
So much has been said in the last few weeks about the Starbucks holiday cups that it’s tempting to avoid the fray. But putting aside religious fervor, there is an interesting conversation to have about the power of color.
Color speaks volumes, and Starbucks is making a very strong statement with an all red cup punctuated only with their green identity. It’s repurposing their brand mark as the classic accompaniment to seasonal colors—Christmas colors. In addition to their traditional association with the holiday, red and green are classic complementary colors, which enhance their mutual impact. Through this lens, less is more, and this cup is a very strong, sophisticated statement.
This “controversy” is less about the holiday itself and more about expression of the holiday. Who says we have to be flowery or ornate to demonstrate genuine enthusiasm? Do you like music any less because you don’t play it on top volume? Do we write less powerfully when we use fewer words? Hardly, and it’s the same case here. Anyone who has stood before a Mark Rothko or an Ellsworth Kelly painting can speak to the power of color.
Consumers only know what they’re used to seeing, and if brands just give into demand—or, in this case, backlash from a focused few—they fail to achieve the huge potential they have in moving culture forward, or at least giving us something to think about.
In an age of over-stimulation, over-saturation, over-sharing, and over-doing everything, the understated stands out and speaks volumes.