Tempest in a Coffee Cup

Friday, the Internet erupted in polarized opinions after Joshua Feuerstein posted a video that went viral. He claimed that Starbucks had declared war on Christianity by having red cups for the holiday season.

While some of you may expect this Business Tuesday article to attack Joshua Feuerstein, you’d be mistaken. This is a man who knows how to make videos go viral (some of which he claims have been viewed 40 MILLION times).  This video has already garnered over 14 MILLION views in the space of five days!

When it comes to his latest stunt, the fact of the matter is, this is a brilliant marketing and promotion campaign, with value added positioning of his brand piggybacking on the back of a large corporation’s brand.

How so, you ask? Let’s take a look at what Joshua Feuerstein did. On November 1st, the traditional annual red cup marketing campaign by Starbucks kicked off. 2015 marks the eighteenth year for this campaign.

18 Years Of Christmas Coffees

Note that Starbucks refers to the coffee line-up for November and December as Christmas coffees. They’re not called holiday coffees. They’re not called Hanukkah coffees. They’re not called Kwanzaa coffees. They’re called Christmas coffees.

Within five days of kicking off the eighteenth annual Starbucks Christmas coffees in red cups, Joshua Feuerstein is calling Starbucks out because their red cups are red.


He created a crisis situation by claiming that Starbucks hated Christians because the red cups are red and, according to him, all hints of Christianity were removed from Starbucks’s cups for this campaign. He seems to be banking on people falling into one of three categories:

  1. People who don’t patronize Starbucks.
  2. People who have incredibly short memories.
  3. People who are willing to believe what they hear without researching what they’re being told.

A quick perusal of Starbucks red cup campaigns from recent years shows that the red cup campaign has used secular representations of the season on their cups.

Previous Red Cup Campaigns

What this shows is that Starbucks has always had festive red cup campaigns but not necessarily Christian themed festive red cup campaigns. After all, pine tree branches, reindeer, singers, Poinsettia, snowflakes, and red, white, and green with smatterings of other colors (such as brown for the reindeer) can hardly be called specifically Christian imagery for the season. But Joshua Feuerstein would have people believe that in previous years, Starbucks’s red cup campaign had Christian imagery and this year, it was removed.

According to the Starbucks website, this year’s red cup campaign launch was amazingly successful.

Annual Red Cup Contest

So how do you capitalize on that success, drive sales up even higher, and get noticed by Starbucks if you’re an everyday person who buys coffee from Starbucks? How do you make it so that the Instagram stat of having the Starbucks holiday cup shared every fourteen seconds become even more impressive?

You make sure that your video goes viral and that your Call-to-Action is one that is going to benefit Starbucks, thereby giving you some street cred with Starbucks. Make sure that you promote their brand in such a way that it benefits your image as well as Starbucks financial bottom line.

Start with reaching out to your Facebook followers (and those of your wife since she’s also posting your video on her Facebook page) regardless of whether they’re legitimate followers or bought followers, and letting them know that there’s a problem at Starbucks that only they can solve. How many people are we talking about in this instance? Over 1.9 million followers.

LIKES to their pages

Then reach out to Twitter followers and Instagram followers, and you’re over the 2 million mark!

Twitter and Instagram

Then direct all your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram followers (I’ve left out his YouTube subscribers and other social media followers) to go to Starbucks, order a coffee, and when they ask for your name, have them write Merry Christmas. Take a photo of your Starbucks coffee marked Merry Christmas and share it on social media with Joshua Feuerstein, all of his followers and all of your followers. If you’re lucky, your Merry Christmas Starbucks coffee selfie could make it on a Joshua Feuerstein montage that will also be shared on social media.

Merry Christmas Starbucks

If all of his 2,017,429 followers follow through on this Call-to-Action just once this season, that’s going to increase Starbucks’s bottom line for the season. Let’s say everyone goes in for a Grande (since that’s what most coffees seem to be in the montage) at a cost of $3.45 USD.   That will generate nearly $7 MILLION USD.

According to Business Insider four years ago, most Starbucks customers bought Starbucks coffee six times per month, and loyal customers bought Starbucks coffee sixteen times per month.  Let say that nothing in terms of Starbucks coffee purchases has changed. If Feuerstein’s 2 million plus followers buy six Starbucks coffees in November, and another Starbucks six coffees in December, the increase in revenues for Starbucks is an eye-popping $84 MILLION USD.

If they bring friends with them, that number will increase dramatically!

SIDE NOTE: In light of the fact that Joshua Feuerstein claims his suicide video garnered 40 MILLION views, his video about Starbucks hating Christians could easily garner at least as many views due to the nature of the video. This means that my numbers are extremely conservative (pardon the pun) at 2 million plus followers buying into his Call-to-Action, and that number could easily triple, quadruple, or even quintuple. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

All right, so Joshua Feuerstein’s $84 MILLION USD won’t be huge beside Starbucks’s 2014 revenue in the U.S. that clocked in at $12.7 BILLION USD, but it’s still an amazing amount of revenue to generate for a company that isn’t paying him to promote their brand.

Unlike his negative marketing and promotion attempts in April 2015 and July 2015, this time he seems to be going with a softer, gentler approach that only looks like his usual approach among his followers.

And even if he doesn’t manage to make a deal with Starbucks after showing them how he can increase their bottom line, he’s made sure he’s got Plan B ready to go.   According to Gabe Hughes, the pastor of First Junction Baptist Church in Junction City (Kansas), the cryptic ACTS238.COM embroidered on the man’s red ball cap is a subconscious advertisement for his soon-to-be-released book called Pentecostal Theology: The Oneness of God (a better idea than his supposed previous book idea of The Feuerstein Bears that other pastors seem to know about).

SIDE NOTE: Joshua Feuerstein’s upcoming book is not to be confused with David K. Bernard’s book published in October 1986 titled, The Oneness of God: Series in Pentecostal Theology, Volume 1.

If he can’t sell Starbucks on his value to their corporation as a pitchman, he’ll have a built-in audience willing to turn him into a best-selling author with over 1 million books in print. If the book sells for a very reasonable ten dollars per book, he and his wife will have more money than they can shake a stick at, even after taxes!  He might even publish a Feuerstein Bears book next if all goes according to either Plan A or Plan B.

Elyse Bruce

P.S. For those who are interested, Starbucks has announced on their website that their Christmas blend is now available online!

Christmas Blend Came Early Online


2 Responses to “Tempest in a Coffee Cup”

  1. Joel Says:

    I love it Elyse! I’m glad somebody is talking sense at least! I love your research on the red cups. I hope most people won’t take Joshua’s word on it as *ahem* gospel. (Sorry for the bad pun) and go out and do their own research before spreading false rumors.

    • Elyse Bruce Says:

      Thanks Joel. From a marketing standpoint, this is a brilliant way to get noticed by a major corporation and to insert his own brand within their own very successful brand. If his Starbucks promotion succeeds to any degree, I’m sure it will be a Godsend (pardon that bad pun) for troubled economies in all countries where the corporation has coffee shops. I’ll be watching to see what else transpires.

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