It’s a rivalry that, for years, has taken on social overtones that marketers love to toy with. We’re talking about West Coast vs. East Coast. The 1 percent vs. the 99 percent. Snobs vs. slobs.
But now, the epic battle between upscale Starbucks and downscale Dunkin’ Donuts has expanded into new territory: Christmas. Days after the Seattle-based coffee maker released an understated red holiday cup devoted to “inclusion,” as the company put it, New England’s D&D offered its less-nuanced alternative: a white cup with what looks like a Christmas wreath around the word “Joy.”
“For another fun and affordable gift for anyone who runs on Dunkin’,” the announcement said, “Dunkin’ Donuts offers a host of holiday merchandise, including limited-edition branded holiday ornaments in five fun choices, including a Dunkin’ Donuts Ugly Christmas Sweater, a snowman, a holiday ball, a Dunkie Snow Globe and a box of the brand’s famous donuts. Dunkin’ Donuts also offers branded mugs, tumblers, gift baskets, and more.”
None of Dunkin’s schwag featured Jesus Christ on the cross. But at least one Christian group — North Carolina’s Faith Driven Consumer, devoted to “creating space in the American marketplace for those who hold to a biblical worldview” — was throwing its weight behind D&D.
“Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts are both free to design their cups and express their values as they see fit,” read a statement from the group. “By creating cups that specifically message the Joy of the Christmas Season—in sharp contrast to Starbucks’ ‘blank canvas’ — Dunkin’ Donuts has specifically welcomed Faith Driven Consumers, and all Americans who love Christmas.”
It seemed unlikely that D&D had actually sought to respond to Starbucks’s cup with its own.
“Even if you had zero approval and the design was finished, it would still take at least a month or two months to get it printed and distributed,” Dave Tupper, creative director at the Brooklyn-based design agency Huge, told NBC. “Even local manufacturers take a couple months to produce something [like this] and Dunkin Donuts is certainly printing its cups in China.”
Still, Dunkin’ Donuts seemed pleased with itself, even retweeting a very Christmas-y message from a customer.
If the “Joy” cup was in the works before the Starbucks dust-up, didn’t that show that D&D was more Christmas-y than its competitor in the first place?
“We believe this conveys the happiness and spirit of the holiday season in a way that resonates with our guests,” Scott Hudler, a Dunkin’ executive, said in a statement, as New York’s Pix 11 reported.
Consumers were pleased with D&D’s choice — or wondered why America had been so focused on its coffee shops’ holiday cups for the past week in the first place.
“DD just destroyed SB!!!!!” one Instagram commenter wrote. “That’s what’s up.”
“Its … just … a cup,” another wrote. “If a stupid design defines your holiday…then you should rethink your priorities.”