Starbucks Corporation (SBUX) has been selling its red holiday cups since 1997, but this year will be very different than past years. While the cups remain red, they were not created by Starbucks designers. Instead, they were created by customers.

In the past, customers could create their own designs on white-canvas holiday cups, but last December, Starbucks asked its customers to use red cups as a canvas and then submit their designs on Instagram. Starbucks was surprised by the response, which was more than 1,200 red holiday cup designs. Those submissions also came from 13 different countries.

Dena Blevins, creative director of Starbucks Global Creative Studio, said, “We were surprised and inspired by the amount of incredible art submitted by our customers. The designs were beautiful, expressive and engaging. We quickly realized there was potential to use the customer-created art for our holiday cups.”

Starbucks contacted a small group of customers who designed some of those red holiday cups and asked them to mail in their cups for product potential evaluation. This led to 13 customer-created red holiday cup designs being created, which are now sold at 25,000 Starbucks stores across 75 countries.

Blevins said, “We loved how the red cups with white designs naturally created a collection. They hang together as one idea, but each expression is unique.”

If you look a little deeper, you will notice that Starbucks might have found something with customer collaboration. A customer of a popular retailer will be more than happy to have his or her work displayed to the masses (even though, in this case, no names are used on the cups). This leads to a sense of accomplishment for the customer, and they will surely share their success with their social media networks, and potentially their local media. This might even become national news for the customer-designers that live in other countries.

For Starbucks, there is no cost in having customers create holiday cups. If Starbucks—as well as other retailers—caught on to the fact that company-customer collaboration has potential to lead to increased exposure for specific products, it could become a trend. If that were to happen, then Starbucks was ahead of the curve. It wouldn’t be the first time, or the last.

SBUX has depreciated 12.22% over the past 12 months and currently offers a dividend yield of 1.83%. 

Want to learn how to invest?

Get a free 10 week email series that will teach you how to start investing.

Delivered twice a week, straight to your inbox.