Unless you have zero internet connectivity, you have likely heard about the Christmas controversy at Starbucks. See, each season, Starbucks introduces a holiday themed cup. One year it was snowflakes, the next year a Christmas star and some assorted baubles and shiny indicators of seasonal joy and, retailers hope, spending.
This year the “People Who Decide These Things” at Starbucks decided to go with a plain red cup. Different enough, but not quite enough for some folks. Almost immediately upon seeing this “travesty” some folks slammed down their five dollar lattes to take to Twitter and Facebook to express their righteous indignation. Then professional rabble rousers on both sides of the political spectrum got a hold of these outrageous outrages and started slinging memes.
Suddenly social media was inundated with commentaries about a PR crisis that didn’t, as far as anyone can tell, really happen in the actual real world. Sure, a few perpetually offended idiots shot off their mouths, but that should have been the end of it. Unfortunately, we live in such a reactionary age that people began reacting to reactions of reactions … that no one can successfully trace to the source.
Said another way, this is a controversy without an official beginning, an earthquake without a discernible epicenter. Then things just got weird. Fans of Christmas took to social media in legion to defend their lack of offense at the cups. Pro Starbucks messages flooded Facebook and Twitter, countless people vociferously communicating the fact that they … um … don’t really care all that terribly much.
Truly clever social media mavens created memes mocking both the supposed anger and the vigorous denial of anything resembling anger at Starbucks. Soon, images of Hanukkah colored cups and gay rainbow cups were showing up online. That just made the deniers deny even louder. They didn’t love the cups, per se, but they didn’t want to be lumped in with Those Offended People … if they even exist.
The big winners here were the internet muckrakers and, of course, Starbucks … who managed to turn a blank slate into a massive passive PR campaign.