In 2015, Starbucks's minimalist red holiday cup stirred controversy. Critics called the cup boring or bemoaned its lack of a specific holiday-themed design. Some Starbucks fans even decorated the cups themselves — and that gave the global coffee retailer an idea.
In 2016, Starbucks invited customers to submit their own designs and post them to Instagram using the hashtag #redcup. The company chose a total of 13 different cup designs, submitted by customers in the United States, Canada, Dubai, South Korea and other countries.
A green "unity" cup, which was also controversial, proceeded the 2016 #redcup campaign. Nonetheless, with its holiday cups, Starbucks creatively used social media to engage customers and drive media attention, according to Katie Kern of Media Frenzy Global, a technology marketing communications agency.