Consumers have used the brand’s #spreadthecheer hashtag to criticise its tax arrangements and spread support for local coffee shops and small business rather than endorsing the global chain or spreading Christmas cheer as Starbucks intended.
Tweets using the brand’s #spreadthecheer hashtag are also being projected unmoderated on a giant screen at the Natural History Museum, London, as part of Starbucks’ sponsorship of the Christmas ice rink there.
Statements including “tax avoiding MoFo’s [sic]” and “Pay your F****ing taxes” have appeared on the brand’s screen at the museum since yesterday (16 December).
The chain claims the messages appeared as a result of a “malfunction” of a profanity filter.
A Starbucks spokesperson says: “We apologise to any visitors who may have been offended by inappropriate messages displayed on the Twitter wall screen at the Natural History Museum’s ice rink café on Sunday. This was due to a temporary malfunction with the content filtering system. As a family-friendly, responsible company we are committed to ensuring that our publicly displayed content is appropriate for all audiences and profanity filters have been in constant operation since the ice rink opened in November. We will continue to work closely with the twitter wall moderator to ensure that all content is consistently reviewed before published.”
Starbucks has declined to comment on a number of occasions about its marketing activity in light of the issues surrounding its tax practices and its decision to pay £20m in tax over the next two years following the row.
The chain is continuing to run its 12 Days of Christmas campaign and has today introduced an offer for Reward Card holders giving them a free drink when they buy a £20 gift card.
Earlier this year a McDonald’s Twitter campaign in the US was dubbed a “McFail” after the hashtag was ambushed by campaign groups such as PETA and angry customers who used the hashtag to criticise the restaurant chain and share negative stories.