SEATTLE — The fact that people even care what the Starbucks’ holiday cup looks like is a testament to at least one thing: The coffee giant has successfully interwoven its brand into the very fabric, culture and history of humankind, says David Lemley of Seattle’s Retail Voodoo, a brand-strategy and creative-marketing company.

“I think Howard Schultz and his team are sitting back in their chairs and high-fiving each other, ’cause they’re the good guys and buzz is buzz,” said Lemley, who worked with Starbucks in the 1990s to build the now-internationally recognized brand.

Lemley says the increasingly spare and simplified design of both the year-round Starbucks logo and the holiday cup are intentional.

The controversy started earlier this week when Starbucks unveiled its holiday cup for the 2015 winter season.

In years past, the cups – which have always had a red background – have featured a variety of designs, including snowflakes and reindeer.

This year, however, the company chose to go with a simple, two-toned red that fades from bright on top to deep at the base.

That has brought accusations that the company was sending an anti-Christmas message.

Former TV and radio evangelist Joshua Feuerstein shared several posts with his 1.8 million Facebook friends and followers, calling for a boycott of Starbucks.

“Starbucks REMOVED CHRISTMAS from their cups because they hate Jesus … ” he wrote in a Nov. 5 post.

He helped spark a social-media frenzy that went viral and even reached into politics when Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump joined the fray and discussed a possible boycott.

Lemley noted that the company has a “Christmas Blend” coffee and was also the first to introduce the now-ubiquitous concept of a holiday cup.

He said, “The company has done such a fantastic job of integrating their brand into the culture that people now have an emotional reaction to the idea of going out and getting their lattes in a red cup to celebrate winter and kick off the holidays.”

Starbucks did not return requests for comments on Tuesday morning, but Lemley said he’s pretty sure no one is too worried.

“The evolution to the pure red cup is brilliant. When you are a global phenomenon, you don’t need words,” he said.


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