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?
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"Love the new logo," writes Sara Emhoff Hauge, also on Facebook. "Streamlined, modern, simple, elegant. Change is obviously more difficult for some than others..."Skip to next paragraph
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The mixed reactions don't surprise the coffee giant. "We expected to see a variety of reactions to our new brand identity; they’re common in any re-branding project," says Starbucks.
Starbucks' logo has gone through two previous shifts, most dramatically in 1987, when Starbucks turned a brown woodcut into a green and black image. It dropped "tea" and "spices" from the text and changed the siren from a 16th-century Norse woodcut to a more stylized black-and-white graphic. "Starbucks became green," says Mr. Schultz.
But why a mermaid? Er, siren? The founders selected her to illustrate "the seafaring history of coffee and Seattle’s strong seaport roots," writes official blogger "Steve M.," in a lyrical tribute to the siren. "There was something about her – a seductive mystery mixed with a nautical theme." The original Norse woodcut showed a suggestive image of a two-tailed mermaid, evoking the seductive singers described in Homer's Odyssey. Since 1992, the increasingly simple graphic has downplayed the split tail, turning the twin fins into a simple decoration surrounding the central crowned female.
Exactly when and where will the new logo appear? The company didn't answer directly, saying only, "Customers will begin to see this evolution of our brand expression in Starbucks stores in March 2011," when Starbucks celebrates its 40th anniversary.
Several Internet comments echoed the backlash against the Gap logo rebranding, which the company withdrew within a week. Some have speculated that the whole point of the threatened Gap redesign was to stir up discussion and bring the floundering company new press. "Traditional advertising has become a lot less active," observes Oswald. "If you can get into a conversation on Facebook, that's where you want to be."
But she cautions against drawing too many comparisons to the Gap change. "Gap is in big trouble as a company. It has lost its luster.... They don’t seem to be managing the brand very well." For Starbucks, whose stock price has already rebounded from its recession lows, "As far as I can tell, the brand is as strong as ever right now."
That might be why Starbucks decided to drop its name from the logo, Oswald suggests. It's a sign of strength for a company's logo to stand alone, without any text. "All you need to do is see the apple and you think of Apple computers. With the Nike icon, with time, they removed the 'Nike' and left the swoosh. The brand is so strong, it doesn’t need to have the name on the logo."
"The test really is: Is it a strong enough icon that people will recognize it as a Starbucks icon and not just a random mermaid?" Oswald asks. "Have they gotten there yet?"