Many large food service brands in the UK and across the globe are known for their seasonal branding. It’s classed as a major sign that Christmas is officially approaching when the likes of McDonald’s and Starbucks roll out their annual festive menus, cup designs and promotional campaigns. Supermarkets and pretty much every other sort of retailer tend to undergo branding adjustments for major holidays, but for them it’s more a case of survival. Regardless of where they do their shopping, people still visit cafes and restaurants over the festive season, and in fact they probably do it even more so, so why do they even need to put so much effort into the colour of their cups?
In reality this trend is relatively recent, only happening over the last 10 years or so on the scale we see now. The overwhelming need for businesses to throw themselves into rebranding exercises over Christmas (and to a lesser extent, other events like Easter and Valentine’s Day) has seemingly stemmed from a wider trend for the power of nostalgia and emotion. Once someone realised that tapping into traditional festive feelings got people to part with their money more readily, the trend has exploded to the point that every small detail in your favourite cafe will probably be red, covered in snow, wearing a knitted hat or possibly all three, for at least two months every year.
There is an argument, however, that we’ve now gone as far as this trend can take us. Major brands have been criticised in recent years for getting lazy with their branding, or worse, betraying the true meaning of the season by not being festive enough. In 2015, Starbucks’ winter cups didn’t actually refer to Christmas at all, but went for a more universal red design instead. Naturally this led to outrage on social media, but it indicates a wider problem: if you’re using nostalgia repeatedly to drum up business, how can you possibly implement new ideas and start new traditions without disappointing people?
It seems like a good time to think outside the box when it comes to festive cafe branding, so we look forward to seeing some more exciting ideas over the next couple of years. It’s probably going to be the small independent businesses that get the most creative first, so keep an eye out and let us know when you find any new festive traditions being started!