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Starbucks logo change: No name. More mermaid. Will it sell more coffee?

Starbucks logo undergoes a redesign that drops its name. Is the coffee giant's mermaid (actually, a siren) strong enough to stand on her own?

By Elizabeth FullerCorrespondent / January 6, 2011

Starbucks provided this pictorial history of the Starbucks logo. The coffee chain celebrates their 40th anniversary in March 2011, at which point the new logo will become standard, announced CEO and Chairman Howard Schultz on Wednesday. Will people recognize the mermaid without the name?

Courtesy of Starbucks

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When you see a mermaid, do you think of coffee? Starbucks hopes so.

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The Seattle-based coffee corporation announced Wednesday that they were changing their logo, stripping off all text – both the name "Starbucks" and "coffee," their signature product – and enlarging their stylized mermaid. Oh, excuse me, not mermaid, siren, as the company consistently calls it.

"Throughout the last four decades, the Siren has been there through it all. And now, we’ve given her a small but meaningful update," wrote Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz on the company's website. In the accompanying video, Mr. Schultz says, "It embraces and respects our heritage, and at the same time evolves us to a point where we feel it's more suitable for the future."

But does it actually evoke Starbucks?

"Is it a strong enough icon?" asks Laura Oswald, director of Marketing Semiotics, a marketing research company in Chicago. "Would you identify that mermaid as absolutely Starbucks the way you identify the golden arches as absolutely McDonald's?"

"A logo is almost like someone's face. If they change it, it’s almost like you don’t recognize the person anymore," says Dr. Oswald. So why would Starbucks take the step? "I have a feeling that they genuinely want to test the new logo, and at the same time, they want to get people talking," she says. Thanks to the Internet, "you can get feedback so quickly – it’s a way of doing market research."

She's not a fan of the new image – which puts her in plentiful company, as public opinion (as expressed in comments on Facebook and starbucks.com) are more than 10 to 1 against the change.

"I love Starbucks. But do you honestly think that if you have just the picture of the siren on your cup without the words Starbucks or Coffee that anyone seeing a cup around town somewhere will know where the heck it came from? Plus it is just boring," writes ivorygirl4ever at starbucks.com.

"We go to Starbucks for comfort, for that sense of familiarity, routine, of 'coming home.' You've taken too much of that away with the new logo," writes Jewel Goodwin on Starbucks' Facebook page. "It leaves a sour taste in my mouth more than any bitter latte ever can."

But not all response is negative.

"i like the logo! (i admittedly, i was a little worried when i heard about it...) thanks for keeping the same iconic green circle that I'm always glad to see! (and to those who think it needs to say Starbucks on it- i think you don't get it. Starbucks has such fantastic brand power people worldwide will know who it belongs immediately)" writes Narja Zarella Calvar on the Starbucks Facebook page.

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