The New Starbucks Logo: Hot or Cold?

Posted by Paladin on June 24, 2011

Starbucks® recently unveiled its new logo, the fourth in the company’s 40 year history. The new design, which has already been incorporated on the side of coffee cups and promotional merchandise, drops the familiar green ring with the words “Starbucks Coffee” and instead focuses solely on the Siren that has been part of the company’s branding since being founded in 1971.

Moving beyond coffee

The Seattle-based company continues to introduce new menu items at its stores, and is reportedly considering adding beer and wine to its selection of teas, ice creams, smoothies and yes, coffee. As the company continues to expand its product line beyond the simple cup of Joe, Starbucks’ new logo reflects the company’s desire to revamp its image to reflect a broader menu, and a broader brand.

The idea was to put the Siren – and the Starbucks brand – front and center, unbound from the idea that it is all about coffee. “For forty years she’s represented coffee, and now she is the star,” a senior creative manager at Starbucks said.

Opinions, sweet and bitter

As an iconic company with a highly visible brand, Starbucks’ decision to shake up its logo has elicited passionate opinions from loyal customers. Some hate the new look, some love it. And others are just confused. Among those who derided the change, one of the more common critiques was aimed at the removal of the company name. Said one poster on the company’s website, “it doesn’t make sense to dilute your trademark by removing the name!” Another poster wrote, “to remove the name is absolute corporate suicide.” Apparently, many felt that the name of the company is the most recognizable and valuable part of the Starbucks brand, not the logo itself.

Others felt that there was no need for a change at all and ascribed to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” school of thought. This echoed the complaints aimed at Gap when they changed their logo last fall. Ultimately, as a result of the extreme backlash, Gap reversed course and changed its logo back within a week.

However, unlike what happened at Gap, it appears the revamped Starbucks logo is here to stay. And, as an international company with operations in more than 50 countries, the new look can help Starbucks gain greater international appeal. Whereas the words “Starbucks Coffee” may have gotten lost in translation, the new logo will be instantly recognizable to customers anywhere in the world.

Many companies, like Target, Apple, McDonalds, Nike and AT&T, have successfully used an image to successfully convey and grow their brand. So why not Starbucks? As one commenter said, “I think the brand is developed enough that the logo itself is enough and the people know the brand of Starbucks well enough to see what this represents.”

A tasty outlook?

The logo change certainly has people talking, as it has elicited strong opinions and generated headlines in magazines and newspapers around the world. But what impact will it have on the company’s bottom line?

Even those who don’t like the new look admit that it probably won’t hurt Starbucks sales. After all, Starbucks enthusiasts will still go for their drink of choice – whether they like the new logo or not. One post said it best, “Brands evolve and with evolution comes changes… it works and as long as the quality of my beverage doesn’t change, I am good with it!”

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