Thursday, January 6

Starbucks New Logo

If you've read my book, you know that I have very mixed emotions about Starbucks. One the one hand, I am crazy loyal and certainly a heavy consumer. On the other hand, as an early adoptor I've seen the deterioration of the brand experience over the years, and certainly the inconsistency in experience from location to location.

So my first reaction when I heard that Starbucks was changing its logo? Here we go again ... Tropicana, Gap, now Starbucks!

Yes late yesterday Starbucks unveiled their new logo, sans the iconic green circle and and sans "coffee" and even sans the brand name. In an effort to make the logo even more iconic, the brand now focuses on its famous Siren. This logo change is rumored to be the first of many events happening during this the brand's 40th anniversary.

Initial reactions, mostly on social media, were bi-polar. Not nearly as drastic as when Gap unveiled their new logo. The reactions were mixed from completely positive to completely negative.

The logo pictured above is the old logo, so to see the new one click here.

Me? I like it, I think. I realize that they've stripped away their brand name, which in old school textbooks is a big no-no. But if you look at Nike, Apple, Target and McDonald's as inspiration, they all have symbols that readily identify their brand without their brand name. I believe that Starbucks is trying to create the same status in consumers' minds ... and I think they can. Might be harder as they roll out worldwide, but I am sure they will figure out how to incorporate their brand name when they need it, just like these other brands have done.

Here's the funny thing about logos. They do need to evolve, and before social media none of us (or any consumers) had a voice. We just got used to it, and over time the new logo became the brand identity. The question about if it makes sense is less about the design, and more about the marketing strategy.

Making Starbucks even more iconic to me makes sense ... gives them the ability over time to branch out beyond what we currently know of the brand (i.e. beyond a coffee house). He says with a sip.

What's your experience? Jim.


  1. First impression: It freaked me out .. How could they? that is until you pointed out Nike, Apple, Target and McDonald's logos. Now I get it and I've settled down. Just don't water down my coffee ;-)

  2. I totally concur with Jim's take on this. There has never been a brand modification in history (I'll posit broadly) that didn't spark a negative comment from someone who felt a connection to the "old" brand. The difference now, of course, is that our multiple social and professional media networks turn such events into brushfires that quickly escalate in heat-- and seeming importance-- far beyond the marketing and business realities involved. What matters is the story behind the brand change and whatever other substantive moves they intend to launch in its wake. Starbucks simply needs to stay the
    course, keep to their story and this will soon enough become another footnote in their long branding case history.

  3. I'm the first one to decry frivolous intrusions on valuable, hard-won brand equity (the GAP logo change/unchange? Complete and utter fiasco). But with this change there is clearly some smart marketing strategy at work. The change to the logo essentially involves removing the brand name and the word "coffee." The wisdom in removing the brand name is debatable, I suppose, but as you point out it doesn't seem to hinder Nike or McDonalds. Further including "coffee" in the logo is a bit constricting, no? Imagine the Nike logo including "shoes" or McDonalds featuring "hamburgers." Clearly those brands are about so much more than those one dimensional offerings. I'd argue that Starbucks is no different. So, while the GAP logo shenanigans were clearly change for change sake, this, I think is much more a step forward.

  4. Hey Jim, I have been reading the comments and it appears from a sampling the split is more 75%/25% against the change. As your book fosuses on "the experience" and its great importance in the world we're living in, I think that we are also heading into a world of expectation. The Expectation Effect is a byproduct of the experience, hence when you have a great experience you begin expecting it over and over. In addition, when consumers have less money to spend they lean on the expectation even more. When that expectation is let down you look elsewhere for the respective product/service. Just like in Gap-Gate (surprised no one ever used that term)and its reversal of logo design, if the push back is great enough who knows!

    Additionally, with the inconsistancies of in-store experience which I had experienced many times even before reading your book, the potential disturbance might be too great. We'll see.

  5. I am not nearly as freaked out by changing the logo, it's a frequent practice. But changing the product is another story. As proven by the NEW COKE, back in the day, the product, not the logo is the main focus. I don't drink the logo, but mess with my coffee....grrrr.

  6. Jim -- nice post. I also think that it also has to do with Market Permission. Does society give Starbucks "permission" to do this as it seems to have done with the other brands that you mentioned? That is why this needs to be so much more of an external issue than one of just coming up with a cool new logo and throwing it to the world. The market recognizes and honors the arches as a symbol for McDonald's as much as it has for Target's Bull's-Eye. But those companies only used the symbols in isolation when it deemed that it had that permission from the public to do so. Who "gave permission" to Radio Shack to call itself The Shack?

  7. I'm actually not a fan of the logo change but understand why they wanted to change to expand their business beyond coffee. That being said, something simpler with less lines would have been easier to recognize like the examples you mentioned!

  8. Jim -

    I agree with your assessment of aspirations Starbucks may have relative to gaining the same status as McDonald's, Nike, Target, Apple where the mark stands without the brand name.

    It seems though, there are a couple of critical differences.

    1) McDonald's, Target, Apple, and Nike have been significant investors in brand awareness vehicles (whether that's advertising, sponsorships, etc). Starbucks obviously hasn't been in the same sense. It seems to be going this route based on the daily connection between the name and logo. Obviously a lot of impressions built up over time, but.....

    2) The others have simplicity going for them. For Apple and Target, their marks are memes - you see the symbol and know the company name. McDonald's arches are the first letter of its name. Granted, the Nike swoosh doesn't suggest the name in and of itself, but it does have simplicity going for it. Looking at the Starbucks mark, I've never gotten what it has to do with the brand. Siren? Doesn't make me think about Starbucks. It's also not visually simple, either. It's always seemed like it makes the audience work really hard to get it.

    3) Without going back and researching this, I'm not completely sure on this point, but I don't know that any of the other brands made a two-step move in one step, i.e., dropping both name (Apple) and category (Computer) in one change. Starbucks is yanking both at the same time.

    So while it might be a smart aspirational move (looking for a lot more category flexibility, aiming for more iconic brand status), it seems to be going at it with more strategic risk than it might have had to take.


  9. Good post - interesting comments too. Not following though on the brand logo analogy... Target's logo is a target... Apple's logo is an apple... McD has the "M" shaped golden arches... What am I missing?. the Nike swoosh, well... that is a departure.
    Personally, I don't care for the crazy mermaid-esque coffee lady in the logo... with or without the words: Starbucks" and "coffee"

  10. I've read that the Starbucks "siren" or mermaid is from an old nordic symbol of seduction ... I guess coffee is seductive. I hear the point, though, that the symbol is not directly relevant but for me it all loses meaning anyway. We just start to identify it as an icon, regardless. But I totally understand the point. Jim

  11. I see this as a move back to the more locally-oriented ideal of "My Starbucks" - stripping the name to cue a less corporate, more neighborhood-hip experience. Now if they could just get out of all the gross Interstate rest stops they're in, they might actually be able to live into that image.

  12. Fun to read the debate ... we were all talking about it at work today! Great perspectives. Jim.

  13. This is cute:!/photo.php?fbid=480180807723&set=a.89627842723.89769.691772723

  14. So funny how months later we are still very interested in this logo change - fascinating how I am totally used to it now.. Jim.