Fact Check

Starbucks' 'Collapse into Cool' Campaign

Starbucks recalled 'Collapse into Cool' promotional posters due to controversy over their alleged 9/11 imagery.

Published Jun 18, 2002

Claim:   Starbucks recalled 'Collapse into Cool' promotional posters due to complaints that they contained imagery reminiscent of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Status:   True.

Examples:   [Collected via e-mail, 2002]

There appears to be no limit on what Starbucks will do to capitalize on the misforturnes of others.

A regular contributor to one of the online forums I participate in was appalled to walk into the Starbucks nearest the WTC site and see the attached poster on a wall. He complained to the staff and was basically told to get lost.

This is the same Starbucks that charged EMT workers $130 for water immediately following the collapse of the towers. (Note that word "collapse.")

He wrote to the group about his experience and other members across the country went to their local Starbucks and saw the poster. Many were disgusted while others didn't see what the fuss was about. Eventually, though, enough people from the group (as well as others) wrote and called to Starbucks national headquarters in Seattle that they announced last week that local stores have been instructed to take down the poster.

I not only understand what upset everyone but I think it is disgusting and between this and Starbucks' behavior on September 11, I will never go there again. What do you think?

Starbucks poster

Origins:   The image shown above is indeed a promotional poster for the Starbucks Coffee Company's new TazoCitrus drinks. The posters were displayed on the walls of about 3,000 Starbucks outlets

throughout the USA and Canada beginning in April 2002, until an inquiry from a New York Post reporter who'd been contacted by someone upset that the poster's imagery was too reminiscent of the terror attacks on New York's twin towers (and a discussion of the ad's purported symbolism on ABC's "Politically Incorrect") prompted Starbucks to pull the material from their stores on June 7. (According to Starbucks the promotional posters were due to come down at the end of June anyway, although the display dates on the posters indicate they were originally intended to be kept up throughout the summer.)

Numerous companies have taken public sensitivity to the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center into account by removing images of the WTC from advertisements, promotional material, and even films, even though these items were prepared before September 11 (including Microsoft, who announced a few days after the attacks that they were removing the twin towers from their popular

flight simulator software after rumors arose that the hijackers had used copies of the program for training purposes.)

Many, however, felt that if any depiction of two similar, side-by-side objects taller than they were wide was going to be considered an unacceptable reminder of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, then "sensitivity" had run amok. Most likely the Starbucks poster would not have been viewed as anything but an image of two frosty drinks amidst a summer setting of grass, butterflies, and a dragonfly if it hadn't included the word "collapse" in its slogan, wording that was far more likely chosen for alliterative reasons than to launch a bizarre campaign to appeal to consumers by "capitalizing on the misfortunes of others."

Starbucks' statement on the issue was as follows:

June 7, 2002

Starbucks deeply regrets if this poster was in any way misinterpreted to be insensitive or offensive as this was never our intent. All retail stores in North America (United States and Canada) were instructed to pull the posters immediately and are in the process of doing so.

The Tazo Ice Blended Tea beverages represented on this particular poster are part of Starbucks blended beverage line-up that also includes Frappuccino Blended Beverages. Starbucks introduced Tazo Ice Blended Tea to accompany Frappuccino Blended Beverages. This poster is part of a larger summer campaign that includes over 30 pieces including print ads, radio ads, outdoor advertising and in-store posters.

The specific names of these beverages featured on the poster are Tazo Citrus and Tazoberry. The poster depicts product shots of the two beverages sitting on a field of green "grass" made with Starbucks signature green straws. The overall concept of the poster was to create a somewhat magical place using bright colors and fun, whimsical elements such as palm trees, dragonflies, butterflies and pinwheels. The headline "Collapse into cool, Try a new Tazo Citrus with tangerine, orange and lime." was meant to conjure up feelings of cooling off on a hot summer day.

Last updated:   2 August 2007

  Sources Sources:

    Roeper, Richard.   "Starbucks Buckles Under to 9/11 Hypersensitivity."

    Chicago Sun-Times.   10 July 2002.

    Stern, Jared Paul and Kate Sheehy.   "Starbucks Yanks Ad Mocking 9/11."

    New York Post.   18 June 2002.

    Associated Press.   "Starbucks Pulls Posters Showing Side-by-Side Drinks."

    17 June 2002.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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