5 Responses to “Starbucks: Now That’s a New Logo We Like”

  1. Elliot Schreiber January 7, 2011 at 6:13 pm #

    I always enjoy your postings. We think very much alike. The following is my blog post on the same topic that I posted yesterday (1/6/2011) at http://www.brandandreputation.com/blog:

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    Starbucks Changes its Logo—So What, Who Cares?

    The press this week was filled with articles about the changing of the Starbuck’s logo. The famous image of the sea-maiden remains but she is no longer ringed with the name Starbuck’s Coffee.

    The press are calling everyone trying to get a handle on what this means. Is it good or bad? The answer is, it is neither. It doesn’t matter a lick. What matters is what Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbuck’s said, that this signals a change in business strategy to extend to other markets, not just coffee.

    No rational person is going to stop going to Starbuck’s because they don’t like the logo on the cup. They may have already stopped going to the store because the bad economy has made a $4 latte seem more expensive than it did several years ago. They also may have stopped going because other coffee emporiums have closed the differentiation gap with Starbuck’s, or because Starbuck’s has become like McDonald’s, literally everywhere. There are three Starbuck’s within three blocks of my apartment. This is not the unique neighborhood coffee house anymore. It is convenience magnified.

    The question is what is Starbuck’s planning to do that required a new logo? As I have said many times, the more important parts of a brand are its attributes and associations, not its logo. Starbuck’s has built a lot of brand strength. It is differentiated, for both good or bad, and it has relevance for many people. At the same time, its strength has been declining as differentiation and relevance have dropped.

    As Ogilvy and Mather have noted in their Brand Asset Valuator, there are two other aspects of a brand that must be considered, esteem and knowledge, which together indicate a brand’s stature. As knowledge goes up, relevance and differentiation go down. In other words, when we believe that we know all that we need or want to know about a brand, the game is over.

    Starbuck’s has been successful in teaching us all that it is a European-style coffee house. It introduced the concept of barristas to the American public. It taught millions of Americans that coffee was not a commodity; that it could be differentiated and that a premium price could be paid for a prestige coffee brand.

    But, in their effort to maintain neighborhood coffee houses like those in Europe, Starbucks played the retail game and became ubiquitous and the stuff of jokes (did you hear the one told that suggests that the end of the world is when one doesn’t find a Starbuck’s within a block?) They no longer were unique. They were everywhere. True, coffee houses are everywhere in Europe, but they are all different. Starbuck’s differences from store to store are akin to moving the deck chairs of the Titanic and declaring that the ship is now safer.

    To grow the business, Starbuck’s has plans for goods other than coffee and channel distribution arrangements to extend its brand into new outlets and to new consumers. That is what is behind the logo change—that they are more than coffee. The question is whether or not they already have been so successful in teaching us that they are coffee that we will accept them as cakes and sandwiches and whatever else they choose to put their brand on. There have been more failures to extend a great brand to seemingly related goods and services than there have been successes.

    I wish Starbuck’s well. I hope they succeed. I think they built a historic brand, but strong brands are not easily changed. Instead of debating the logo change, we should be talking about their real brand and market strategy.

    • Bob Fiddler January 7, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

      Thanks, Elliot. We agree the logo change isn’t earth shattering and that it doesn’t “matter,” in the sense that the logo itself won’t sell more product or open more stores. And it’s mostly folks like us, who work with this stuff professionally, that really care about a logo change. But I do believe branding matters. Good branding (good because it’s well aligned with business strategy and customer perception) paves the way to good performance, because it’s one factor that helps model customer perceptions. In this case, I think SB recognized that the old logo wouldn’t fit the company as it continued to evolve, so they did what they had to do to make it right. It’s not a really big deal. But, given how many companies screw it up, it should be applauded.

      • Elliot Schreiber January 12, 2011 at 1:31 am #

        I hope I didn’t come off as not applauding what they did. They did a smart thing, i.e., a strategic thing. It was not, as you pointed out, just a logo change like that at Gap. It was done to support the strategic changes the company needs to make to stay relevant.

  2. Darren Coleman January 12, 2011 at 6:27 pm #

    Bob – love the employee anecdote. Brilliant. It just shows that great brands are built from within. No matter how much effort Starbucks puts into its visual identity your experience with the staff can affect it. Cracking example. Thank you.

    • Bob Fiddler January 12, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

      Thanks, Darren. We in the states don’t usually get to enjoy the words “cracking example.” Love it!

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