Why Red Solo Cup?

Ever since I can remember Solo cups have been used for any type of social event, from my family reunions, with my twelve 10 year old cousins, to the tailgates with Penn State Alumni’s. They serve one purpose–to hold your beverage– but, depending on your age and the social event happening, the functions behind the “red Solo cup” change. So, why is it that we always choose red Solo cups? Is there more to that red Solo cup that you don’t know about?


First, a bit of background history on where the brand comes from.  The actual name of this phenomenon is the Solo Cup Company . It was founded in the mid-1930’s but, wasn’t until the 1970’s that the red Solo cup came to America and changed the way we thought of disposable dishware. Solo has other products but, by far the red Solo cup remains the most distinguishable product that the company has yet to produce. Solo has no real reason of why they chose to make their cups red. However, it’s a nice color that has no bias towards women or men (which is always helpful now-a-days). They have alternative colors available as well, but on their website (above) they offer only red and blue Solo cups. As the cup became more popular, changes were made to the mechanics so that the user had full benefits. For example, the cup changed its bottom to a more square size for stability and they added more dimension to the outside so that there is more grip.

Back to the original question of: why do we chose Solo cups and not some other brand? Rebecca Bikoff, a brand manager at Solo, organized a focus group where participants were handed Solo cups and observed. The results were fascinating. Each individual was seen smiling or exempting positive behavior. The reason why this occurred is simple. People have been using Solo cups for events that usually celebrate a high point in life. Which means that there is an emotion attached to the cups. An association of celebration/making memories is something that the Solo company’s brand strives to be a part of. The plastic that the Solo uses is more eco-friendly than most other disposable dishware companies. There is also the psychological part that having red Solo cups at a party is a social norm. Having a red Solo cup in your hand also gives one a sense of belonging. By this, I mean that you were at this party and experienced the dancing, singing, laughing and all of the craziness that occurred.  Especially in this time of my life, Solo cups are used for numerous drinking games (flip cup, beer pong, etc.)  Another reason of why Solo cups are the bee’s knees is because of country star, Toby Keith.

The entirety of this song talks about Keith’s love for partying with red Solo cups. The song starts with how he uses them at a variety of events to how drinking from a glass is heinous. Then, the country star sings about how they are affordable and decomposable (after 14 years). The chorus restates his love for the cups and the need to party. Keith also talks about how he loves the shape of the cups but, dislikes the very flimsy material when it cracks and spills his drink. By the end of the song, you would think Keith and red Solo cup are best friends. His love and devotion to this party necessity is not only priceless but truly sincere. I have always wondered what his wife thought of all this…


If you are throwing any kind of get together and don’t have red Solo cups, you should probably reschedule until  you can run to the closest jiffy store and grab some (I paid $4 for a 12 pack the other night at Fresh-N-Fill). Give people the party they deserve by providing them with the cups they deserve.






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8 thoughts on “Why Red Solo Cup?

  1. Marissa Dorros

    The point you made about how red Solo cups are associated with high points in people’s lives reminds me of a concept I was introduced to in my marketing class last year. Basically, a Coca Cola representative in a video we watched explained that the company tries to get people to subconsciously associate their brand with happy memories. In their advertisements, people are always smiling while drinking a cold, refreshing drink, so when consumers think of Coke, they they think of the satisfied people in the commercials. Although Coca Cola may inform consumers of the sugary content in their product, they are sure that the statistics showing weight gain from sugary drink consumption like Andrew showed us is not what consumers immediately associate with the brand. In addition, this text confirms that familiarity with brands makes customers continue to return for more. Consumers’ familiarity and previous satisfaction with Solo could be why it is such a popular choice at parties and other social gatherings.

  2. Candace Burke

    This is a really interesting post! I found it intriguing that people fell connected to the cup because they have used that brand during high points in life as you said. In your research, did you come across any evidence if that actual brand of the cup matters? For example, if people were holding an off-brand red plastic cup would people feel differently knowing it wasn’t a Solo brand cup?

  3. Meredith Herndon

    Hey Olivia! I definitely agree that having a Red Solo Cup in my hand at a party does make me feel more apart of scene, so the psychology of this blog make sense to me! They’re also so engrained into our party culture that it is like second nature to buy them at the store even if they’re more expensive. Just another fun fact as to why people use it logistically is because there are lines in the cup (click the link at the end) that show you how much alcohol to pour in the cup, if you’re 21. This could be another mechanism, since the cup gives people pouring drinks guidelines to follow they’re more inclined to buy them for the extra help. https://goo.gl/images/guigBw

  4. Samantha Francesca Sichenze

    Awesome job Olivia! This topic is so interesting and so relevant to today’s day in age. I completely agree with your idea of the red Solo cup having to due with “belonging.” “Fitting in” and “being cool” is so important to people today. I strongly believe that people like to hold a red Solo cup to feel like one of the group, to feel like they belong. During the last belonging period, I wrote my blog on college students and the anxiety they experience. I wrote how students make matters worse by often spending their time watching other kids apparently having the time of their lives on Instagram. When you take a picture with a red Solo cup in your hand, people are going to assume that alcohol is in the cup and you’re having fun. It all has to due with social status and the way people perceive you. Check out my previous blog on college students and anxiety and read how social status emerges it: http://sites.psu.edu/siowfa16/2016/09/13/college-students-and-anxiety/.

  5. Andie Lynn Sullivan

    i found this article interesting because it is weird that as a society we have such a stigma against the red solo cup where if you see someone with one, you automatically assume there is alcohol in it. Now there is a whole plethora of solo cup colors, but the red one is still so strongly associated with drinking and partying.http://www.slate.com/articles/business/branded/2011/10/red_cups_how_solo_s_disposable_drinking_vessel_became_an_america.html This article talks about how this cup became such a staple for partying.

  6. Alexander Mark Schaefer

    I’ve never really thought about the appeal to Red Solo Cups. They’re much more expensive than off brand red plastic cup. Perhaps there’s a psychological factor to the appeal of red solo cups, like the color being more appealing or it being a name brand. Your article was well written and I enjoyed the song.

  7. Daniella Cappello

    I could not agree more with the things mentioned in this blog post. As far back as I can remember, my family and friends have all provided red solo cups at every event. I can definitely see the unintentional emotional attachment to these cups. However, I feel as though most people just decide on red solo cups out of habit and conformity and not because of anything science related.

  8. Alyssa Marie Frey

    Hi Olivia, I found your blog really interesting and learned a lot of things I hadn’t known about red solo cups! This reminded me of a previous person’s blog on the color red and how we are automatically drawn to the color. In high school during spirit week, a group of girls dressed up as red solo cups for twin day and a teacher made them take the outfits off because they were inappropriate. However like you said, red solo cups can be used for any type of social gathering and do not need to have negative connotation to them. I thought your observational study was interesting, but I think you could link some information from your blog back to topics we covered in class in order to really tie it all together. Other than that, very fun blog post!

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