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Media Mine

Weighing in on Starbucks Red Cup

Media Mine weighs in on The Great Starbucks Plain Red Cup Scare of 2015

Since 1997 Starbucks has released a brightly colored, special designed cup that was their kick-off for the holiday season. Over the years these cups have been adorned with ice skaters in 2011, snowmen in 2012, and snowflakes in 2014. But this year’s cup has created quite an interesting commotion.

The 2015 cup was released early in November and is more unique to the cups released in previous years. It appears, at first glance to be lacking in design. The cup is covered with two tone red. Darker red on the bottom that lightens as it draws near the top, with the small Starbucks mermaid trademark in the middle. No snowflakes, no ornaments or skaters, just red. The cup was left blank intentionally, however not for the reasons most of the persons who are up in arms believe it to be.

The lack of Christmas symbols or decorations on the cup has sent the social media world all a buzz. The threaded discussions, videos and commentary on the cup have declared all sorts of things. People are accusing Starbucks of taking Christ out of Christmas, Starbucks is caving in on the so-called war on Christmas.  One fella has gone on YouTube to claim Starbucks “hates Jesus”. The discussions on Facebook and Twitter are endless. As I read through these discussions etcetera I notice one thing that was unanimously missing from each statement, the real reason Starbucks decided on a plain cup. With that in mind I decided to dig a little to find out why a red cup with no art depicting the holiday. Their cups had always depicted the spirit of the season, why not (supposedly) this year?

During the non-holiday times of the year the cups at Starbucks are plain white with the well-known mermaid icon still placed directly in the center. Through the years there has been a unique occurrence with these plain white cups. They have been used as a canvas to draw on by many customers. They have been the canvas for some very detailed doodling, cartooning, and drawing. All revealing stories being told by the artists or about the artist.

Josh Hara who is a creative director at a marketing agency in Columbus, Ohio has drawn on many a Starbucks cup. If you go to Buzz Feed you can see several of his decorated cups. He has drawn everything from a sad giraffe who can’t drink his coffee because of his wee arms, to a jogger complaining about jogging and even Voldemort of Harry Potter fame. His drawings all tell a story. Pinterest has a page of Starbucks Cup Art. You can also Google Starbucks cups drawn on by customers you will see thousands of cups with the most fantastic art work.

Each cup with a drawn picture tells a story. They are, in every practical sense a work of art. Art communicates to us in the visual and tells stories. It is visual communication. It is the expression of concepts and ideas using visual methods, such as drawing on cups.

Whether white or red, the blank cup is meant to be a canvas. In their own statement Starbucks has said, “Taking a cue from customers who have been doodling designs on cups for years, this year’s design is another way Starbucks is inviting customers to communicate visually their own stories with a red cup that mimics a blank canvas”. Jeffrey Fields who is the vice president of Design & Content at Starbucks said of the design, “This year we wanted to usher in the holidays with a purity of design that welcomes all of our stories”.

In the same statement Starbucks said that they want to be considered a sanctuary during the holidays. With this cup, “we’re embracing the simplicity and the quietness of it”.

Starbucks would not have come to the decision to release a relatively blank cup lightly. Enormous amounts of time and money go into product design and advertising.

In their statement Starbucks said that, “creating a culture of belonging, inclusion and diversity is one of our core values”, and during the holidays Starbucks want to provide an experience that inspires the spirit of the season and welcomes all peoples from all backgrounds and religions into our stores around the world. With those words, it would sure seem that Starbucks reflects the season as opposed to being at war with it.

The fluidity of drawing is a spiritual experience in itself. I would like to join Starbucks and ask of anyone reading this to take a cue from so many more before you, pack up your pens, pencils, markers or even crayons, go to Starbucks, order your favorite drink and draw to your hearts content. Tell the world your story.


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What is Media Literacy?

“Whoever controls the media controls the mind”. 


According to the 1992 Aspen Media Literacy Leadership Institute, media literacy is simply; “…the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create media in a variety of forms”.


Any person living in today’s American society is relentlessly flooded with media: commercial ads, music, film, television, and more. Images explode from billboards, reader boards, road signs, and signs on buildings as you drive down main street USA. Advertisements in magazines and in newspapers flash from each page. Then there is the internet—media maelstrom. You can’t get away from the media. For example if you open the Yahoo page you might see on each side of the screen product advertisements. Maybe something for dieting or a new way to access movies on line on one side and the other might contain the hottest, hippest clothing store. In the middle of the advertisements is a plethora of ‘news stories’ most of which are about the current relationship status of film and TV stars. Making the term ‘news’ questionable. And who decides what we need to see, who creates this ‘news’ and media of which we are inundated.

There are six major owners of media. Until recently there were only five; the newest addition is Vivendi Universal. Founded in 2002 Vivendi is already in league with such corporations as News Corp, Viacom, AOL/Time Warner, Disney and Bertelsmann.  These 6 corporations control almost everything we see and hear.  Why does this matter? Jim Morrison once said “Whoever controls the media controls the mind”.  You might think this is a rash statement; you may even be shaking your head at me.  Think about this, the more forms of media and the more companies one corporation owns means that there is less creativity and fewer opinions going into what is being presented for our consumption. It is as if to say six people decide what is good, what we should see, what we should hear and what we need to purchase (that last one is a blog in itself to be attacked at a later date).

I certainly do not profess to say that we need to stop consuming media. I personally love media, TV, films, and music. I would even go as far as to say there are some commercials that I just love. I smile each time the young lady holds up the safe driver check and tells the young man who thinks men are better drivers than women to silence himself.

This is where the ability to access, analyze, evaluate the media and its forms that we consume comes in handy and is important. When consuming media ask yourself 5 simple questions: 1. Who created this message? 2. What techniques have been use to attract my attention? 3. How might people understand this message differently than I do? 4. What values, lifestyles and points of view are presented in or omitted from this message? 5. Why is this message being sent?

Media literacy is a term that really isn’t out there that much, but it is something that this blogger feels is should be in every household, on each person lips and in their minds. We need to understand the images that are presented before as well as the ideas.

Let me leave you with the words of Malcolm X. “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses”.


Saturday the 26th. Affiliate Marketing.
Copyright 2012