‘Tis the season to be jolly.. and for controversy. Recently, Starbucks announced the design for its Red Holiday Cups, “a minimalist, two-toned ombré design with a bright poppy colour that turns into a darker cranberry below”.

(Source: Starbucks.com)

However, Christian pastor Joshua Feuerstein took offence with it, claiming in a Facebook video that it was a war against Christianity to remove the words “Merry Christmas” from its design. He then called for Christians to take a stand by deceiving baristas into writing “Merry Christmas” on their Starbucks cups instead of their names and post pictures of it with the hashtag #MerryChristmasStarbucks.


But did social media join Feuerstein in taking up arms against Starbucks’ plain red cups? Not one to miss a controversy, here’s what our Digimind Social radar turned up about #StarbucksRedCups:

Not well received, but it’s not what you think

Between 6 November (when Feuerstein posted the video) and 12 November, complaints against Starbucks’ minimalist design focused mostly on its “boring” and “cheap” appearance without any Christmas themed embellishments.

Surprisingly, little to no mentions focused on the design’s alleged “anti Christian” nature, although more than half (57%) of the conversations during this period highlighted the ignorance and narrow mindedness of Feuerstein’s crusade:

According to our Concepts Clusters, Christianity became synonymous with ignorance and conservativeness, thanks to #MerryChristmasStarbucks. Any mentions of Starbucks’ red cups and anti-Christianity were also made in sarcasm. So it looks like Feuerstein may have inadvertently invited a social media war on himself!

Social media is a fickle friend  

While social media was used as a platform to champion a cause for Christianity, many misused the hashtag. Those who posted or tweeted #MerryChristmasStarbucks did not side with Feuerstein, as most, if not all the mentions questioned the validity of his crusade, contradicting the principle behind the hashtag as our Key Concepts shows:

All publicity is good publicity

Ironically, Feuerstein’s crusade raised coverage for Starbucks’ red cups across social media, as netizens continued posting photos of their Starbucks cups. If anything, it aroused interest in an otherwise annual trend of brands switching to festive designs for their products.

#CupGate2015 also paved the way for brand advocates to come forward and defend Starbucks’ red cups:


Make conversation, not just noise

Like our dolphin activists from SG50, #MerryChristmasStarbucks backfired. While Feuerstein’s large following enabled his video to go viral, it did not influence people outside his circle to join him but instead, speak against him. 

Perhaps he should have addressed something less superficial than a Christmas cup design:


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