Can Package Design Make a Difference in Social Profitability?

Can Package Design Make a Difference in Social Profitability?

One more example of the social power that lies behind your branding

The arrival of November usually ushers in an onslaught of holiday décor and new seasonal packaging designs.

November 1st is also when Starbucks traditionally reveals its annual red holiday takeaway cup. This year, things at Starbucks started off on a different note with a new green cup design, which has had some Starbucks patrons up in arms and responding with extreme vitriol on social media.

Why all the fuss? Was this a complete about-face for a company known since 1997 for its annual red cup? Wasn’t the 2015 red holiday cup debacle enough for the company?

What we’ve learned is Starbucks, with its eye on Social Profitability, has launched a very limited edition green cup as a way of responding to the political climate leading up to the American elections in the U.S. These green cups were only meant for circulation through the early part of November.

Even more telling is that recognition of Starbucks branding is so strong that the cups are still identifiable without the appearance of a single logo or icon.

“The green cup and the design represent the connections Starbucks has as a community with its partners (employees) and customers. During this 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”, said Howard Schultz, Chairman and CEO.

Starbucks commissioned artist Shogo Ota to create the artwork. A mosaic of more than a hundred people drawn in one continuous stroke is featured on the new green cup with a white circle center background. His threaded design represents shared humanity and connection, serving as a symbol for stitching people together as a united community. A coffee farmer, a family, a barista, friends embracing. A single line connects all the figures.

Rather than bring communities together for the greater good, the new green cup seems to have divided their customers and created even more controversy. Twitter is abuzz with people losing their minds about whether Starbucks has declared a war on Christmas, has been pushing their ‘liberal’ political agenda, and far worse.

As one person tweeted, “Starbucks releases a cup designed to represent shared humanity…Gets this type of response…”

All this over the design and colour of a paper cup meant to hold hot drinks and be tossed (hopefully) into the recycle bin afterwards.

And for anyone curious about this year’s red holiday cup design, it already has had its own share of controversy, with pictures of two new ‘top secret’ 2016 designs leaked on Imgur, clearly returning to a festive holiday graphic design.

What does all this say about the power and impact of branding? For those of us with an eye on Social Profitability, the proof is in the maelstrom of discussion created and amount of social and traditional media response received thus far. In the long run, it all may prove to be – So Worth It!

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