The Genius of the Starbucks Holiday Drink Cup

The Genius of the Starbucks Holiday Drink Cup

Last Friday, a radio stations flipped the switch and started playing Christmas music.  Many of the television stations were already playing Christmas movies. But yesterday, Starbucks celebrated the return of the holiday drinks in a grand manner with their holiday cup.

As a Starbucks reward member, I got an email and app alert Wednesday afternoon inviting me to come get a holiday drink and if I did on Thursday, I’d get a free holiday cup.  The invitation was clear to point out that stores only had a limited number of cups available and they would be distributed until they were gone.  What? A free limited-edition Starbucks cup. I was all game.

Wednesday night I started forming my plan.

Which Starbucks should I go to?  Should I go very early in the morning?  I’m usually out at 8 so maybe I’ll make it in time to get one of the last set available.  Maybe I’ll have time to visit several stores before they run out.  My mind was racing.

I don’t usually go to Starbucks in the morning.  I visit Starbucks a few times a month, maybe, in the afternoon for a special pick me up.  To be honest… It’s usually for a Happy Hour special. So, I’m fine with my cup of home brewed tea in the morning.  After I complete my daily school drop off, unless I have an appointment, I normally head back home. 

Not yesterday. I completed school drop off and made a right turn (I normally turn left) to head towards Starbucks. I get there and of course, I’m not alone. The drive thru line is wrapped around the building.  The line inside is also wrapped around the store.  Oh, I’m getting nervous now.  I may be too late for this store.  I stated to think I may have to visit a few stores to get this cup.

This promotion had me – a promotional expert – breaking routine and standing in long lines waiting patiently to get a free cup?  Not only that, but I was also considering driving further away from home to get the cup from another store.

What was it about this cup that had me and so many other people so excited?

Let me tell you. First, I love drinkware. I usually have several pieces of drinkware in use at a time – one for water, one for my hot drink, and another for my cold drink. Next, I always admire Starbucks drinkware.  It’s always trendy so I take great inspiration from it.  I usually can’t justify the cost of purchasing Starbucks drinkware, so I usually admire it, but leave it on the shelf.

That is until they invited me to own my own drinkware for a simple purchase. You bet I was spending $5 for an early morning drink and I wasn’t alone.


Through a little red cup, Starbucks stroke the world with a spark of marketing genius using promotional products. They effectively demonstrated how promotional products are a gift accepted with gratitude that encourage customers to do business with you again and again.

The holiday cup guarantees return customers.  The cup is a coupon for return customers.  The store offers return customers a discounted price drink for a limited time if they bring their cup back for another holiday drink. 

The holiday cup is a reusable emblem of the brand. Unlike the regular cups used at the store, this one is less likely to end up in the trash, at least for a little while.  It’s a reusable cup that people can use at home – even as they drink their home brewed coffee and tea beverages. 

The cup unites an exclusive club. Fans of the brand will recognize this cup everywhere they go. They now have their own club. At the very least, it’s an opener for small talk… “hey you got your Starbucks cup too.” 

Owners of the cup have their own piece of Starbucks.  Even people like me who won’t buy Starbucks drinkware can feel they have their own brand drinkware because they have the cup.  There’s a little extra piece of Starbucks now in their world.

Promotional marketing experts, like myself, spend infinite amounts of time designing these types of programs and educating customers on their effectiveness.  Promotional Products Work!!!  Promotional products are the only form of marketing able to engage all 5 senses plus another – ownership.  It’s the only form of marketing customers can own. 

Through their holiday drink cup campaign, Starbucks has united advocates of their brand around coffee.  They’ve effectively ushered us into an experience and celebration around the holidays.

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Crafting Customer Loyalty through Branding

Crafting Customer Loyalty through Branding