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Careful brands, the holidays only come once a year.

Siegel+Gale | December 12, 2011

Christmas came early this year. Starbuck’s signature red cups came to town before bags of Halloween candy were fully empty. Even for people that don’t like Starbucks coffee (ahem), I do know that those cups herald the return of the holiday season. There are even sites devoted to the countdown of their return with excited messages, like “It’s not Christmas until the Red Cups Arrive.” But with Christmas music piped through stores in October and holiday displays launching before Halloween, even Forbes magazine wondered if Starbucks had jumped the gun this year: For some, it's not the red cups that are the problem. Rather, their early arrival seems like an affront to the traditional pace of the holiday season. In fact, Elizabeth Stonehill, a student at the University of Virginia (my alma mater) wrote a great article in the Cavalier Daily, stating: With Starbucks, the issue is around pushing out their holiday cups too soon, Coca-Cola faced a different problem this holiday season when it tried to change its can, making it white instead of red. Similar to Starbucks, Coca-Cola aimed to join in the holiday fun, as it has done before by adding Santa to its traditional red cans. However, as noted in The Wall Street Journal, Coke was forced to switch back to its red can just one month after rolling out the snow-white can. Brand loyalists weren’t only disappointed with the tampering of the red can, but also confused: Coke assured consumers that it hadn’t changed the drink formula, but there was still uproar on the company’s blogs, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube pages, accusing Coke of “trickery” and “blasphemy.” I’m sure Coke was glad to see that its fans are very loyal to the brand and don’t stand for imitations (or at least, what they consider to be an imitation); but I’m also pretty sure Coke’s marketing executives were shocked by the outcry. Does Starbucks force us to take the holiday season for granted with its pre-emptive red cups? Should Coke have better anticipated consumers’ reactions to changing the iconic red can? Do you know of brands that tried to get into the holiday spirit early on and were successful?  

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