Wake up and smell the symbol

January 6, 2011

The new Starbucks logo, which drops the company name is a bad idea.

The new Starbucks logo, which drops the company name is a bad idea. Dropping the “Starbucks” and the “Coffee” from their logo, and turning their symbolic mermaid into their well-known green coloring is not a strong enough change to create a usable “symbol only” corporate identity.

Starbucks Logo Evolution

Chief Executive Howard Schultz has the right idea about evolving the logo. His solution however shows some of the hubris that got the company into trouble a few years ago. If they want to evolve the name so the company can broaden its product line, they could have done so by dropping the word “coffee” from the Starbucks name. Dropping the Starbucks name from their logo will only serve to confuse consumers who are not as familiar with the company and thus the target of a company trying to broaden its product line.

A corporate identity should follow a brand strategy, which should follow a business strategy. In this regard, Starbucks approached the identity change appropriately. Unfortunately, as many generals learn, the best strategy can go to hell quickly in battle. I think that is what happened here. Those who created the new corporate identity internally live and breathe the female siren symbol on a daily basis. So, in my opinion, there was no objectivity, no outside perspective on the decision to drop the name.

This symbol is not the Apple logo, which is an apple. It is not the golden arches of McDonalds. It is not the Nike swoosh. All of these are very simple and clean symbols that evolved over time. The mermaid is a complex design and while most loyal customers will recognize this symbol as the coffee formerly known as Starbucks, it bucks the very strategy of why they needed to evolve the logo in the first place.

The only good thing coming out of this for Starbucks is the huge number of blogs and articles on the subject.

Jim Gregory is CoreBrand’s CEO

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