Why Starbucks Has Seasonal Cups, and How Seasonal Marketing Works

Have you seen Starbucks’ new holiday cup design this year?  For many of us, the seasonal change from fall to winter is literally marked by the first day we can get a festive drink in a red Starbucks cup. It’s amazing how for a short period of time,  a company known for selling coffee, gains more attention for the paper product that contains it. Ever wondered how this marketing move came into play? …and what’s the point?

Since 1997, Starbucks has featured a uniquely designed cup to bring in the holiday season. In 1999 the team introduced us to the first red version of the cups, and since then we’ve looked forward to each year’s new reinvention of the design, and it’s no different in 2021.

“It’s all about comfort and connection, and being together,” said Suzie Reecer, Starbucks’ associate creative director.

There are actually some good strategies behind the decision to give their red cup marketing the green light every year. Here are a few insights into how seasonal marketing works.

  1. Get People Talking
  2. Attract With Stability
  3. Entertain with Surprise

Get People Talking Marketing Strategy

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Marketing itself is really just a creative discussion between businesses and consumers. Businesses market themselves to start discussions about why their product is the best, or why people need to try it. Because the conversations in our marketing can sometimes start to feel stale and repetitive, seasonal marketing is a great way to positively give people something new to talk about. 

Starbucks, for example, has brilliantly taken advantage of our top-of-mind awareness by giving us something we can look forward to each year. Furthermore, the more people talk, the more people listen. In this case, to the effect of hundreds of thousands of social media posts, innumerable articles, and several talk shows and news channel features. 

Not only does the newly dressed design give us a reason to talk about Starbucks, but curiosity gives us a reason to buy it. In 2018 the consumer curiosity was so overwhelming, the coffee enterprise sold completely out of red cups in a matter of hours once available. 

Attract with Stability

There’s No Place Like Home For The Holidays…

Being top-of-mind is huge, but it’s not everything. We refer to ‘consumers’ in reference to numbers, demographics, and in this instance coffee buyers. But at the end of the day, it’s important to protect the understanding that they are human beings with human natures. 

In many ways, brands foster people’s sense of identity and belonging, so make your brand feel like home to them. Grow relational stability with your consumers by understanding their lifestyles, starting traditions, and participating in conversations that matter to them. 

Contrary to what you might think initially, consistent seasonal marketing can actually provide a sense of stability to consumers. Having something to do and look forward to every year gives your brand a presence in the future, and the tethered memory of an experience from before gives your brand a presence in the past. Engaging the consumer’s perception in a sort of timelessness.

Entertain with Surprise

Only a hippopotamus will do.

Although there is a very timeless and nostalgic expectation of the Starbucks red cup, it doesn’t end there. Every year the creative team at Starbucks fashions a completely unique design for their iconic red cup. Because it’s not just about consistency, it’s also about surprise. Truly it’s about striking the perfect balance of both, but nevertheless, always have both. Whether it’s creative packaging, a limited-time-only feature item, or an exciting one-time-only giveaway, always strive to entertain and surprise. 

This year, Starbucks even went as far as to enhance their seasonal consumer experience by designing interactive games that can be accessed through their Starbucks rewards program. In addition to enjoying a unique and interactive game, the first 10 winners to meet all the game requirements will be awarded free Starbucks coffee for life! Talk about a big circus animal-sized surprise. Most brands aren’t in the position to give lifetimes supplies of anything away to anyone. But the point is to constantly strive to be fresh, relevant, and surprising. 

How to Make a Seasonal Marketing Plan

These are a few of our favorite things…

Every marketing plan should be crafted as uniquely as the business it’s to serve. That being said, it is our passion and joy to work closely with businesses to identify, establish, and execute the perfect plan. Whether it’s in regards to a full-service marketing strategy, or a seasonal holiday campaign, we would love the opportunity to show you what we’ve got. 

Schedule a free consultation with one of our marketing experts to learn more about how your business can grow, and how we can help.