Future Tense

Starbucks Just Sent Out the Most Self-Aggrandizing Push Notification Ever

Starbucks’ new green holiday cup. It’s nice!


On Nov. 1, the unofficial start of the holiday season for retailers, Starbucks unveiled a new festive cup. Starbucks introduces a new holiday-themed cardboard cup each year. Usually the cups are red. This year, the cup is green, and it features an illustration of 132 faces, all connected by a single line, drawn by the artist Shogo Ota.

The cup—which will be available for “a very limited time” before Starbucks reverts to a more traditional red cup—looks nice. Starbucks should be proud of it. But there’s a fine line between pride and megalomania, and Starbucks crossed that line when it sent the following push notification to Starbucks mobile app users on Tuesday morning:*

“The Green Cup,” the notification says. “And the simple message behind it: We are all one.”

Look, I get it. November and December are Starbucks’ busy season. The company has to deliver the gingerbread lattes and peppermint mochas that its regular customers have come to expect without appearing too safe or boring. This green cup surely seemed like a great way to spice things up and entice new customers with an interesting design (and a color no one saw coming!). But expecting a cardboard coffee cup to deliver the message “We are all one” is like expecting a muffin liner to liberate us from the craving and narrow-mindedness that cause us all to suffer. It’s a bit much to ask of a disposable inanimate object.

And sending out a push notification to alert the world that Starbucks had finally solved this whole mystery-of-life thing seems like a symptom of a break from reality, or at the very least an inflated sense of self-importance.

The Starbucks customers who tapped on the profound push notification were taken to a page in the app bearing even more philosophical musings, hailing the cup as “A symbol of our interconnectedness. A reminder of our shared values. A hopeful beacon of humanity in harmony.” OK, sure. I sincerely hope that someone on Starbucks’ digital marketing is actually deriving spiritual comfort from Starbucks’ new cup. But it’s probably fair to assume that most people who use Starbucks’ mobile app are in it for coffee, not koans. Better to stick with tried and true messages like “Redeem your free drink” and “$1 bakery items after 2 p.m.”

*Correction, Nov. 1, 2016: This post originally misstated when Starbucks released its new cups. It was Tuesday, not Thursday.