Ringing In Criticism

As the Starbucks cup debate continues with loud yells from both pro-Christmas-ers and pro-Starbucks-ers, another debate is heating up.  Target has generated significant backlash for their over-the-top Christmas sweater, sporting the acronym OCD: Obsessive Christmas Disorder.


In the media, we have one company criticized as too sensitive and another as insensitive.

Does either debate have merit? As public relations professionals, which debate bothers you most?

Target’s OCD sweater makes light of a debilitation disorder, turning it into a money-making, commercialized piece of clothing. I see the humor in it, I can understand the idea behind it but it just seems tasteless, especially for a time of year when we are supposed to be kind and understanding.

PR professionals have to be on the look out for anything that could draw criticism of our clients. We must look at things from every angle, must see through every demographic’s eyes to avoid being offensive.

As for the Starbucks cup, I can’t help but wonder, what research was done to back this decisions?  Did Starbucks receive complaints about their previous Christmas cups? As we all know, we don’t do anything without research.

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4 Responses to Ringing In Criticism

  1. Catherine Hahne says:

    Research is the bread and butter that makes PR possible. Researching past successful campaigns and unsuccessful campaigns help PR professionals is a great way to help figure out if your upcoming could be successful.

    For the Starbucks cups, I am sure research was done. Minimalist is the style right now, so it isn’t shocking that Starbucks followed the minimalist look for their cups. The sweater at Target has been circling the internet for the past few Christmases. It was widely popular online so it would seem to reason that it would also be popular in the store.

    Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much research is done, the public can always act differently than is expected.

  2. Cattarina Lovins says:

    From a personal standpoint, neither of these holiday products bother me, and from a PR standpoint, these brands weren’t insensitive or too sensitive.

    Starbucks chose to be more inclusive by designing a cup without text, letting the cup represent whatever the holiday season means to the coffee drinker. As a PR professional, I would’ve endorsed this decision beforehand just as I do now because it’s new, fresh, inclusive and still reflects the holiday spirit. Like the author of this blog post, I do wonder if any research was conducted, but either way, the typical Starbucks purchaser seems to be of a more inclusive mindset with all the strides Starbucks takes to better communities locally and internationally, including partnering with ASU to offer college tuition and creating Ethos water bottles to fund clean water and sanitation projects in Africa.

    As for Target, it comes off more cute-funny than inappropriate-funny. I wouldn’t deem it as offensive, like some of the shirts Urban Outfitters has sold in the past including, “Don’t feed the models.”. I’m also unsure how many are outraged over the sweater in comparison to those who enjoy the sweater. Depending on that answer and the magnitude of controversy over the sweater, I would recommend a more positive communications plan for Target moving forward.

  3. Jordan Baxter says:

    This was a very interesting issue that Starbucks faced. It is crazy to find that the con artist named Joshua started this rumor that Starbucks was against Christmas and God since they removed all the holiday objects from their cups. I have to believe Starbucks had some research behind their decision before making a change like this and I don’t think they expected the outcome to be so harsh. I’d assume the change was made since so many religions take place in the United States, especially some religions that don’t involve Jesus.

  4. Matthew Covert says:

    I was unaware of all the backlash that target was receiving. That says a lot about Starbucks share holders and Targets as well. The holidays aren’t the same that they used to be which is a good thing. Major brands have switched over to more inclusive language in their messaging which is good.
    Yet brands have to make sure they appease their conservative bases that demand, unrealistically, that their views be represented in the products they support. That disappointment never goes over well and is nearly unavoidable. I think the correct way forward would be for local target branches to do more outreach and charity work. Those relationships can go a long way and prevent misunderstandings on where Target stands in relation to those communities.

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