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The Banana Enigma

Bananas. It was like falling in love for the first time.

My eyes were immediately drawn to the mug sitting on the top shelf as I trudged into Starbucks for my morning cup of latte. Suddenly, my daily coffee run turned into a dramatic soap opera scene quite like the one where the girl falls head over heels in love at first sight with a handsome boy. Except this one’s not a boy – it’s a mug. With bananas. A flamingo perched amongst a field of bullfrogs would not have been any more striking.

The mug had its giant signature siren-approved logo plastered on it, but beyond that, nothing else felt Starbucks-esque. I was bewildered and fascinated by the photorealistic bananas cropped neatly on a faded pink background.

Really, Starbucks? Bananas? Why not oranges or mangoes or pears! It was so quirky that it was endearing. Frankly, it was just so me. Needless to say, I was in love. I bought it.

After the initial infatuation, like any obnoxious sleuthing girlfriend that digs up everything about her new boyfriend’s exes, I was determined to find out where the bananas came from. It just seemed so out of place, so unlike the Starbucks everyone knows.

Why bananas on a mug? I popped the question to every Starbucks barista I could find. No one had an answer and they would look at me like I was bananas. I didn’t care – I wanted to know. I was searching for an answer with a vengeance.

So I came up with a few theories of my own:

Theory #1: Banana Worship
The designer liked bananas. That’s it. Well, they liked it enough to coat an entire mug with pictures of real bananas to worship it forever. Every day. During their coffee ritual. The banana is their spirit fruit.

Theory #2: Promote Banana Sales at Starbucks
By purposely putting bananas on the mug, Starbucks’ internal agenda is to increase banana sales. Compared to a 19 cent banana at a supermarket, a banana at Starbucks is a whopping $1.00. (I feel my wallet bleeding and screaming in agony just thinking about it.) By designing bananas on a mug, it was like discrete advertising.

Theory #3: Tribute to The Gang's All Here (1943)
Remember the Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat, featuring Carmen Miranda, her hat, and the choreographed banana dance? Perhaps the mug pays tribute to the dancers who tirelessly waved giant bananas around and the spectacular banana hat at the end of the number.

Theory #4: The Designed Accident
Sometimes designers credit intensive brainstorming sessions and consumer insight research as their source of success when in reality, it was a serendipitous accident. Maybe a designer saw bananas on a grocery list and thought – hmm, why don’t we put bananas on a mug?

Regardless of what the answer is, one can only imagine the possibilities of why bananas exist on a Starbucks mug. Perhaps they will think of adding dragonfruits to the next one. We’ll see.

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