Starbucks Keeps Siren, Loses Coffee

Discussion
Jan 07, 2011
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Why won’t they just leave those logos alone!

Okay, Starbucks’ decision to
update its logo hasn’t generated the hostility that Gap faced when it tinkered
with its blue square, but it’s still a big deal based solely on how powerful
the coffee chain’s brand is around the globe. The company that has been joined
at the hip with coffee ever since its founding is taking the word out of its
logo. In the words of Howard Schultz, chairman, president and chief executive
of Starbucks, the company is looking to "go
beyond coffee."

Mr. Schultz wrote on the Starbucks website, "Starbucks will
continue to offer the highest-quality coffee, but we will offer other products
as well — and
while the integrity, quality and consistency of these products must remain
true to who we are, our new brand identity will give us the freedom and flexibility
to explore innovations and new channels of distribution that will keep us in
step with our current customers and build strong connections with new customers."

Not
everyone, as to be expected, is happy with the logo change.

A post by "kindertj"
under Mr. Schultz’s piece took the opportunity of the logo change to add a
complaint.

"I would like my black card back as well as the old logo. The new gold
card is as unappealing as the new logo — the so called ‘loyal customer’ benefits
that are sent out in postcard form seldom make it to the mailbox," the
poster wrote. "Don’t bother complaining to Starbucks as they told me to
take my complaint to the postal service. Give us lower prices instead of new
logos and wasted postage."

Tony Spaeth, president of Tony Spaeth/Identity,
told Ad Age that there
shouldn’t be too much to read into criticisms of the logo.

"It’s easy for people to demean a logo change. Does that really reflect
their genuine perception of Starbucks? I don’t think so," Mr. Spaeth said.

Mr.
Schultz promised more changes to come.

"You’ll begin to see our evolution starting this Spring," he
wrote. "And there will be much more to come, as we celebrate our 40th anniversary
by honoring the millions of customers and thousands of partners who’ve
made Starbucks such a welcoming presence around the world. We think you’ll
like what you see."

Discussion Questions: What do you think of how Starbucks has introduced
its logo change? What do you think of the logo and the "beyond coffee" direction
the company is going in?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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21 Comments on "Starbucks Keeps Siren, Loses Coffee"


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David Biernbaum
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

First, my usual disclaimer in that I’m a Starbucks gold card holder and I frequent the place 2 to 3 times every day, which is a very good thing for all of my valued clients! Starbucks is my brain fuel.

That said, I think the new logo clearly indicates a major concern I have about my beloved Starbucks, that being that they are trying to become a much broader CPG company, and that they might lose focus on what they do so wonderfully best, which is to serve great lattes in their aromatic coffee shops.

So if Starbucks wants to drop the word “coffee” from the logo, I get it. But I do wish they would continue to have the word “Starbucks” even on the new logo. But at least the logo is still green…and probably in more ways than one!

Ryan Mathews
Guest
10 years 4 months ago
To begin with this isn’t so much of a logo change — in the Gap sense of logo change — as it is the latest installment of the evolution of the logo which has been changed several times over the year. First the detailing on the breasts went away. Then the mermaid split tail was eliminated. And, finally we got the more mass market version of the logo we’ve all come to know and comment about. As to the elimination of the words “Starbucks” and “Coffee” — why not? After all nobody feels Shell should add the words “Shell” and “Petroleum Products” to their logo. More troubling is Starbucks persistent desire to break through the strict confines of day-part marketing and into the unexplored (by them) frontiers of sandwiches, wine, entrees, deserts and/or whatever. This is, after all, the same CEO who upon returning to the crumbling castle of his caffeinated creation a few scant years ago tried to put the breaks on the sandwich program and return to the core coffee business? Not that… Read more »
Doug Stephens
Guest
Doug Stephens
10 years 4 months ago

A well executed change backed by CEO ownership and articulation of the rationale.

Markets change and smart companies change with them. As long as you bring your customers along for the ride, they understand and support you.

I know one thing for sure…no logo change is going to stand between me and my morning Grande Starbucks!

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

Change the logo if you must. But do not eliminate the Starbucks name. Stop trying to be McDonald’s and remain true to your core values. That is what got them to where they are now. That and unbelievable marketing to convince people to pay usurious prices for a cup of coffee.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

It should be no surprise that Starbucks has taken “coffee” off of their logo. Since Howard Schultz tool over, Starbucks has never been in the coffee business. Schultz vision was always to create the cafe atmosphere of Europe. He wanted a place that people congregate, relax, and enjoy the ambiance. As I noted in the recent Dunkin’ Donuts discussion, Starbucks has never competed with Dunkin’ Donuts (though we all have hyped this as competition).

The independent coffee place across the street where I live serves wine and beer after 4 o’clock. They have events on Saturday nights (small music ensembles, poetry reading, etc.) Starbucks is a whole lot more likely to do these types of things than to make donuts or hamburgers. Starbucks is not fast food. Starbucks is “enjoy life.” Look for Starbucks to continue down that “cafe” road.

Liz Crawford
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

Starbucks has had a few missteps in the recent past–Via Instant Coffee (Instant Coffee?) as well as the Pike’s Place entry that sort of competes with their nemesis, Dunkin’ Donuts. While I haven’t seen the sales figures on these, I have trouble believing they hit their targets given the hullabaloo surrounding the launches.

I am leery of their logo change because it does signal a shift into a broader range of categories and service offerings. Their magazine, a brief foray into editorial, was a another short-lived, unsuccessful offering. How many more of these can Starbucks sustain before they dilute their brand and damage demand?

Stick to your business, Starbucks.

Mark Johnson
Guest
Mark Johnson
10 years 4 months ago

Not sure losing the Starbucks moniker and name is a good idea. They are trying to rebrand their images, but does McDonald’s roll packaging out without the McDonald’s brand? That is their biggest competition now. Just a question.

Dan Berthiaume
Guest
Dan Berthiaume
10 years 4 months ago

The Gap logo was a radical change that overdid the “modern” look for what has become a traditional retailer (Gap’s days of being a trendsetter ended in the late ’90s). Starbucks’ logo change is more subtle and streamlined, also Starbucks has a different clientele and image than Gap and has more leeway to modernize and innovate. This logo change should not significantly impact Starbucks, either positively or negatively.

Bill Hanifin
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

More than anything, this Starbucks tale could be considered a mini case study in corporate management. Of the competing priorities for marketing budget that Starbucks must have on its list, I hope the logo redesign was not the highest.

This is the sort of tinkering that, in the end, only other marketers might notice and care about. The end result as rendered on a coffee cup is subtle enough that many consumers might miss it. Could their investment in this redesign process and hard cost of product change have been better spent?

To address the question of thumbs up/thumbs down, my opinion is that Starbucks should not be afraid to stick to its knitting and could have left the logo alone. People will patronize their stores for a broader selection of products based on advertisement of the offering itself, not based on the logo.

James Tenser
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

Evidently Mr. Schultz wants the company logo to reflect aspirations that extend beyond purveying water extract of roasted black beans.

Taking the word “coffee” off the logo makes some sense to me then. But I’m not certain the latest graphic version reaches the iconic status that it seems to strive for.

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
10 years 4 months ago

Another interesting case. Always wonder why it is such a priority to modify an iconic logo. It is usually very difficult to explain to customers why a change is “necessary,” high profile changes raise questions in shoppers minds–what else is different?

While the change in marketing direction is aimed at reaching more consumers, keeping the “loyalists” on board has to be a priority in the messaging.

Bob Samples
Guest
Bob Samples
10 years 4 months ago
Logo change, Via Coffee, and [snubbing] Kraft, is all creating a lot of buzz around the Starbucks brand. So let’s see how the stock is doing: SBUX was hovering around $21 a year ago ($8 two years ago) now it’s dancing past $33. Hmmm, seems pretty good. How about the Via thing: when it came out I was like Liz, I mean, INSTANT coffee. Test tests at store level proved it was good but could my refined palate handle instant? Well the brand is now over $100MM a year and I keep a supply at my desk so I don’t have to drink vending machine coffee at work, and honestly it’s great stuff. I don’t like the new logo, but since it’s one color and an image only it will be easier and cheaper to print. And I still know it’s Starbucks. So I think all the buzz has SBUX lapping it up. Like it or not it hasn’t hurt them so far and they still make great coffee available to the masses with crazy… Read more »
Mark Burr
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

As I sniffle through the winter blues, I stare at a box of slowly emptying tissues that no matter what brand they are labeled, they are a ‘Kleenex’.

Starbucks is coffee. They were coffee. They are coffee. They will be coffee. Who are they? They are coffee.

“Is that a Starbucks coffee you are drinking, Scanner?” Why I don’t know–is it? Well, yesterday it was. Today it is. Tomorrow? I just won’t know–will I? Nope, I sure won’t and no one else will either.

Their logo is not the golden arches or the yellow shell. It’s the words “Starbucks Coffee.” It’s on their buildings and on every kiosk location. The lady doesn’t show up there. When your soul is that easy to give up, maybe you don’t have one any more.

I’ve been wrong before. I could be again and likely will be. Nevertheless, in this case, huge is not an effective enough adjective to describe this mistake.

Gordon Arnold
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

We live in a new world economy. The updated logo is fully in line with what the world needs for brand recognition. Time will tell that this was a responsible adjustment to the change in economy.

Eliott Olson
Guest
Eliott Olson
10 years 4 months ago

Rearranging furniture.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

I don’t like the new logo as much, but since I patronize them less frequently than I view the Olympics, they probably don’t care; but frankly, why should anyone…isn’t the whole “logo change brewhaha”(pun intended) on 14:57 of its 15′ of fame?

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
10 years 4 months ago

How many cups, napkins, signs, uniforms, etc, will end up being trashed/pitched in the process of the changeover, I wonder?

Doug Fleener
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

This will be a non-story in 3 weeks, but until then Starbucks gets lots of free press.

I think it makes sense to drop coffee from the logo. Then again, I like the Via instant coffee. I appreciate that when I’m up at 4 am on my way to the airport, I don’t have to brew a pot of coffee.

Lee Peterson
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

There’s a lot of noise out there about this and really, we should all get over ourselves. It’s a great evolution to the mark and is also a solid attempt (not the last I’d say) at getting them to an icon vs. signage. The world famous CEO took the time to address it using the latest technology as well. Who could ask for more? Oh yeah, self centered designers thinking “I could blow that away!” could. Right.

Nice job, Starbucks, keep moving forward.

R Seaman
Guest
R Seaman
10 years 4 months ago

Target has been successful in their transition and use a logo as the only vehicle to identify themselves. They started with their name along with a logo depicting a red/white target. Eventually they dropped their name and today only display a target to identify themselves in their marketing efforts.

Starbucks should have used this approach and they would have avoided the backlash that has occurred.

Christopher P. Ramey
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

I see a different issue. Too many executives, deeply ingrained with their own company, believe that everyone knows their brand. Yet, research continues to tell us that brand awareness is rarely what we imagine it should be. I am not suggesting that Starbucks has an issue with brand awareness. I am suggesting that other marketers not delude themselves into believing that everyone knows their brand.

Taking your name off your logo is rarely a successful tactic. Do you remember Prince when he dropped his name in favor of a symbol?

Starbucks and Target may be iconic and may get away with taking their name off their logo. But, it is a very poor strategy for most companies.

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