It’s basically turning a G-rated image -- something designed to warm people’s hearts for the holidays -- into a PG-13 laugher. That’s what has led me to question whether the whole thing is just one giant troll.
I struggle to think that there wasn’t a single McDonald’s employee who realized that the holiday cup could be manipulated with minor creativity. I’m not saying that it’s obvious at first glance, or even something that most people would even think to do. I just believe someone at McDonald’s, considering how many people likely saw the cup design before its final approval, had to realize that with a few squiggly lines the mittens could become something a lot more “cheeky.”
Once seeing that the cup could become a meme, I believe that McDonald’s made a calculated decision to move forward with the cup design. They may have figured that if people were willing to take it upon themselves to alter the cups why stand in the way.
Would they really be okay with someone turning mittens into butt cheeks on their holiday cup? If it generated enough publicity and social mentions, it would be worth it. Maybe they thought they were putting a little humor into the holidays. What’s the harm, right? But if you give someone a canvas with the outline of something NSFW, can you be surprised if that’s what it becomes?
Since the cups were released, hundreds of articles have been written in publications like Buzzfeed, USA Today, Thrillist, and The Huffington Post featuring images of the altered coffee cups. Every single photograph includes the McCafe logo. It’s akin to the countless Starbucks images that populate social media with patrons’ names misspelled in increasingly funny ways (There is even a conspiracy theory questioning whether this too is a corporate troll).
When the folks over at Munchies reached out to McDonald’s, a spokesperson said the following, “Our festive McCafé cups are of mittens not hands. The altered image circulating on social media is the result of someone getting a little cheeky and adding some hand-drawing to a cup.”
If you don’t accept that McDonald’s would knowingly release a holiday cup that could be turned into a mooning display, I offer you an alternate theory. Once seeing their cup transformed into a viral holiday story, the powers that be at McDonald’s turned into the skid rather than fight it.
The truth is right there in plain sight.
If the spokesperson is willing to make a joke of the whole thing (“…getting a little cheeky.”), then McDonald’s can’t feel too badly about becoming a holiday meme and generating tens of millions of social media impressions. I imagine McDonald’s executives sitting a room and expounding, “Hey it’s not our fault if someone draws on our cups and turns it into something else. How can you blame us? “
I don’t begrudge McDonald’s for creating or embracing the story. I think it’s brilliant. They must have garnered media attention from the story that would have otherwise required a multi-million-dollar advertising budget.
McDonald’s holiday cup is one of the viral stories of the Christmas season. McDonald’s captured lightning in a bottle, giving people an all new reason to order coffee at their locations. And, it’s not for anything having to do with the chain’s food, but rather a coffee cup design that’s going to be retired come the new year.
I will, however, add one caveat. Whether McDonald’s accepted that the cups could be creatively redesigned or just embraced the story once it developed, I am certain that there isn’t a single person in all of McDonald’s corporate that wants to be connected to this…