Monday, January 10, 2011

New Starbucks Logo Represents a Change in the Company's Focus

Starbucks recently launched a change in their logo to celebrate their 40th anniversary (see the new logo here). Whether you are a fan of the giant coffee chain or not, it seems that Starbucks has lost site of the power of their name.

By removing their name from the logo, they are removing the most important part of their business, their brand. For Starbucks, their brand is completely represented in their name. Maybe for a company like Nike, who specializes in a number of sports related products, the swoosh is all you need because when you think of Nike, you no longer think about just shoes. However, Starbucks is in the business coffee and their name so powerfully connects to the idea of coffee, that removing it from the logo doesn't make sense from a branding standpoint. Perhaps if Starbucks goal is to expand their services to the point that the company is not primarily associated with coffee anymore, then this is a great decision (Starbucks mulling wine, cheese move). If their goal though is to merely show a fresh look, not some complete shift in their businesses focus, then removing their name could be a disaster.

There is nothing wrong with a logo change. The reality is brands get stale. The mistake is found with removing your name from a logo, when your name is the product itself. Think about Coca-Cola. They have undergone numerous logo changes but they remain the superior soft drink company. Despite the many graphical changes in the Coca-Cola logo (see the Coca-Cola logo throughout the years), the one thing that has remained constant in the logo is the name Coca-Cola. This is because their name is the product, Coke, which is synonymous with a cola drink. Just as a Rolex is an expensive watch, a Kleenex is a tissue and Campbell's is soup, to many people Starbucks is coffee.

When you go to Starbucks, you may be thinking ahead of time that you want a Caramel Machiatto, but you are also thinking that you want a Starbucks. This holds true, despite the many types of drinks available at the store. When your name almost becomes the thing itself you have a powerful brand. By removing it from the product, they are saying Starbucks isn't coffee rather a company that just happens to sell coffee among other things. That is apparent as the number of products you can buy at Starbucks seems to increase every year to the point where they have over extended their brand. Starbucks seems to be on a mission to be the cafe that sells everything, not just the few things they are good at that make them who they are. This logo change is just another move by a company that from a branding standpoint, appears to be getting out of the coffee business.