For many the return of the red festive cups at Starbucks signals the start of the countdown to Christmas, but for me the excitement is in the buzz around my website, Countdown To Red Cups.
This year marked the sixth year of my hugely popular website countdowntoredcups.com and this year has been the most exciting, highly trafficked and highest earning year ever.
Traditionally Starbucks' Christmas menu returns in the first week of November and they're served up in festive red cups. For the last three years the launch date has been November 1st.
As always traffic to my website started to build from about August, then on the week of November 1st I was over whelmed by visitors returning to see if their beloved red cups had returned.
Well, people were a little disappointed. In the UK the Christmas drinks returned but were being served up in Starbucks' regular white cups while in the US a green cup had appeared. Americans took to social media to complain about these new green cups and wanted the traditional red cups back.
Well, what they didn't know is red cups weren't gone forever. Starbucks introduced the green cup to coincide with the US election, the green cup is supposed to symbolise unity in a divisive time in the US. A single white line on the green cups connects various figures. A coffee farmer, a family, a barista, friends embracing. A mosaic of more than a hundred people drawn in one continuous stroke.
Starbucks commissioned artist Shogo Ota to create the artwork. His threaded design represents shared humanity and connection, serving as a symbol for stitching people together as a united community.
On November 10th the world woke up to find that Donald Trump had won the election, it was a sad day but the one thing that did make it a little better was that on Thursday 10th the red cups returned, not just in the US but worldwide.
It's the first time Starbucks have synchronised their efforts across the globe and it was a brave move as the delay due to the election also meant the red cups were delayed here in the UK as well as other parts of the world... and we didn't even have a green cup to keep us going.
Green cups in the US and the delay of red cups in the rest of the world did Starbucks a huge favour though. Coffee lovers expected their holiday cups on November 1st but instead they get a green cup, what happens next? Well the country dives to the brink of civil war and the press label Starbucks as the evil organisation that's waging war on Christmas. That's right, lot's of press attention and the piece of information running through to core of these reports is that the red cups return following the election on the 10th of November in America.
Another example of Starbuck's tendency to use this kind of marketing technique around #redcups was back in 2014 when Starbucks USA revealed their holiday drinks menu and customers were horrified to find that eggnog latte had been scrapped. After a couple of days of backlash and plenty of press attention and trending hashtags, Starbucks gave in and brought back eggnog. Miraculously they had just enough of the syrup tucked away somewhere to distribute at short notice to every store in the country, despite the fact they had no intention of selling it.
Here in the UK, legendary BBC broom cupboard presenter, Andi Peters was on the case. Initially Andi tweeted Starbucks UK asking when the red cups were coming back, so I took the opportunity to tweet back with the news that they might not be coming at all. Andi tweeted a few minutes later, having phoned Starbucks for some insider info and he too came to the same conclusion that red cups will be back in the UK on November 10th.
Traffic always starts to build on Countdown To Red Cups from late August and this year was no different. Unique users was 22% up on the previous years and spiked on November 1st when the world expected the return of red cups but were given nothing but the Christmas drinks menu, minus the red cups.
However, there was still more to come. On November 10th when Starbucks actually released the delayed red cups there was a second and even bigger spike. November 10th was 21% up on traffic from November 1st, it was the biggest single day in the website's six year history.
With this additional swell in traffic the website this year is 30% up on 2015.
It wasn't just page view that were up though, advertising revenue also took a leap thanks to some new ad formats which I ran this year alongside Google Ads. The new ads are sponsored-link-style ads provided by content.ad. These ads have increased my earnings by a further 25%.
The inclusion of some Amazon referrals for Starbucks Christmas products has also brought in a little additional revenue.