Research Study: Starbucks Holiday Packaging and Brand Image

Does Starbucks holiday packaging influence a consumer’s decision to purchase coffee?

Also credit to my wonderful, hardworking group mates: Sarah Kurz, Rachel Gluck and Becca Shapiro!

A semester of work for my communications class culminated in a 56-page research project exploring my personal favorite study space and go-to coffee shop, Starbucks. More specifically, we looked into the beloved “red cups” and holiday packaging and how they impact consumer attitudes towards the brand. When we were prompted with this nightmare project, it was right around the holiday season when Starbucks holiday cups were in full swing and smells of gingerbread lattes filled the air. Naturally, we chose to do our project on the Starbucks holiday packaging and what, exactly, it is about them that makes Starbucks lovers turn into the Belieber’s of coffee drinks when they hit stores each year.

How did we do it?

This was the part that we struggled the most with. First we thought we had to do a survey, an experiment, AND a focus group. Lucky for us, we were only required to pick one and to be honest, at the time, a survey sounded like it would be the easiest. We got right to work using scales from scholarly journals and altering the questions to be relevant to our research project. We had one scale intended to measure brand attitude towards Starbucks to gauge how our respondents felt about the brand. We then used a different scale to measure attitudes toward the Starbucks holiday packaging. Below is an example of some of the questions we asked.

Example of Brand Attitude Scale
Example of Brand Attitude Scale
Example of Holiday Packaging Attitude Scale
Example of Holiday Packaging Attitude Scale

What did we find?

The one thing we did do well was find people to respond to our survey, I guess that’s a plus of having my other 3 group members being the president and co-vice presidents of the Penn State PRSSA Chapter. We closed the survey after acquiring about 120 responses from mainly full-time, undergraduate students. We used SPSS to run various tests on the data we collected. We simplified the 33-item survey into two variables, one that measured brand attitude and one that measured attitude towards the holiday cups. From a regression test, we found there was a 36.3% variance of brand image is based on holiday packaging which means we proved our hypothesis! Starbucks holiday packaging positively impacts attitudes towards the Starbucks brand.

What does this mean?

At the conclusion of the project, we were able to prove our hypothesis correct (and getting a 99% on the final project), so I would call it a success. However, the real success was in the communication based recommendations we were able to make to our (hypothetical) client, Starbucks. Because of the positive relationship between brand attitude and the holiday cups, Starbucks should capitalize on their efforts to make an even more successful branding campaign during the holiday season. For example, they could create social media and launch campaign to create even more hype around the holiday packaging. On a more broad scale, these results show us that, despite the quick-service atmosphere of Starbucks and related stores, customers still appreciate marketing efforts such as the Starbucks holiday packaging.

The Starbucks holiday packaging is just another way they are sticking to their mission to “inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” The iconic red cups and tasty snowmen cookies certainly inspire and nurture my human spirit!

Do you love the red holiday cups as much as I do? Comment below or tweet @errbrooks to let me know!


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