Starbucks pre-election green unity cups made their debut Nov. 1 in place of the long anticipated holiday red cups. The cups, featuring a mosaic of hundreds of people drawn in one continuous stroke by artist Shogo Ota, were meant to promote unity of people at a time of turmoil in the country but faced mixed feelings from the public.
“The green cup and the design represent the connections Starbucks has as a community with its partners (employees) and customers,” said Howard Schultz, chairman and CEO in a blog post. “During a divisive time in our country, Starbucks wanted to create a symbol of unity as a reminder of our shared values, and the need to be good to each other.”
The first issue Starbucks ran into was that people thought the limited edition cup was a new look for the holiday cup for the next two months. The cups also faced some controversy last year because people wanted them to be more representative of Christmas. People were anticipating a red cup with more holiday relation — even though holiday colors are red and green.
Next, people also viewed the cups as a political statement that did not match the environment within the United States. At a time when people were going to make different decisions on election day, the cups promoted unity and being together when that was not the case for many.
Aside from the criticisms, public relations professionals called for the public to “grow the cup up” and appreciate the idea behind the limited edition cups. Some professionals called for the public to focus on the unity and stories of people behind the unity. Others called for people to focus on the artist and the work behind the cups.
After the emotion-filled week, Starbucks premiered their highly anticipated holiday cups and the world kept spinning.
Yara Ismail is a junior studying public relations and advertising at DePaul University in Chicago. She is a member of the PRSSA Industry News Subcommittee and the vice president of professional development for DePaul’s PRSSA Chapter. Follow her on twitter @YaraIsmail_ or on LinkedIn.