Starbucks New Brand – Good Move or Bad?


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Well, the giant of the coffee industry Starbucks just announced a bold new brand and logo design. The new logo is part of Starbucks’ new strategy that will begin unfolding in stores in March.

This strategic and branding move comes after a couple tough years for Starbucks as they saw sales slump and were forced to close some 600 stores following many years of growth and expansion. This contraction was due in part to a shift in coffee consumption as Dunkin Donuts, McDonalds, and other retailers gained share while the soft economy caused some coffee aficionados to reduce consumption or seek lower cost alternatives.

Acording to Howard Shultz, Starbucks CEO, the company needed to expand beyond the core coffee business and make a bold move forward. In terms of branding, Starbucks stated goal was to respect the past, but move boldly into the future and the logo change is a symbol of this necessary evolution.

From a branding perspective, Shultz says they wanted to…

“retain the elements that have been true about Starbucks since the very beginning:

– A unique retail experience that creates a Third Place for our customers between their homes and places of work
– A carefully crafted offering of the finest, high-quality coffees from around the world
– The emotional connection that our partners make daily with our customers.

Throughout the last four decades, the Siren has been there through it all. And now, we’ve given her a small but meaningful update to ensure that the Starbucks brand continues to embrace our heritage in ways that are true to our core values and that also ensure we remain relevant and poised for future growth.”

Here is the look of the new logo on a cup of coffee. How does it look? Well, it’s an iconic logo and the siren can live on its own. But is it necessary to strip her of the circle ? Is it an improvement? Is it a move forward to remove the name Starbucks from the brand mark? These are big moves and not to be taken lightly.

We understand the strategic intent of removing the word “COFFEE” from the logo as Starbucks extends its business into other areas. But is it a positive move to remove the name altogether and to emulate the likes of Nike and Apple? It has the air of hubris that Starbucks is trying to say there are so big they don’t need their name any more. Of course the brand is well recognized enough that its not like people will not know the brand or the coffee is from Starbucks. And the brand will be in a branded environment in the stores or other outlets where the name will be present. But why remove the name other than to make a statement that you think you are too big to need a name any more.

While we’re all for simplicity, we think it’s a risky and unnecessary step to remove the brand name. In addition, we think the new logo, while still appealing, is weaker, not stronger than the previous logo. Furthermore, it is less distinctive and less impactful.

The design just does not have the punch it used to have. The circle around the mermaid held and presented the siren as a hero. Just as a beautiful frame enhances a piece of art, so the circle enhanced the siren in the center and provided rich contrast between the green and the brown. Even if the company wanted to diversity away from coffee, there was not need to remove the brand name’ instead they could have removed the word coffee.

Van Gogh is an extraordinary artist. His distinctive style is unique and his work can stand on its own. It doesn’t “need” a frame. Yet, I prefer it so. The right frame holds the art, presents it fully; even enhancing it. I feel the same with Starbucks. I prefer my siren with the encircling frame. And, while I know it is Starbucks, even without the name, I prefer to see the name on the logo. It serves as a welcome reminder of the brand choice I made. We’re are all for simplicity, but the new Starbucks is perhaps oversimplified to the point that it loses some of its distinguishing characteristics.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Rick Thompson
Rick's passion for building brands and innovative marketing programs makes him an ideal partner for companies that want to build a strong brand that engages customers and drives revenue and profit. His experience in owning the P&L as a line manager help him appreciate that the goal of all branding and marketing is to drive the bottom line.


  1. Of all the commentary I’ve seen on this, you are the first to do two important things:

    1.) Present the framed art metaphor, which got to the heart of the problem with the logo. Nike and Apple stand on their own because they are self-contained – and this siren just bleeds off into the cup. It feels unfinished.

    2.) Bring it to a personal choice and not apologize for that. I completely agree with all of your points -and it’s refreshing to agree with you more as a customer rather than a professional.

    Yes, in the end, Raelin – a long term Starbucks customer – just does not like the new logo.

    Raelin Musuraca is a customer experience & marketing strategist passionate for IA/UX.

  2. I personally like the old logo and wish that Starbucks had at least kept “Starbucks” part of the new design. Previously, my eye was drawn to the company name and now, to that odd mermaid-like figure.

    But I think the key question is: will I continue to go to Starbucks? And the answer for me, and I think most current Starbucks customers, is YES. The logo won’t change our behavior, even though we may grouse about it.

    Companies want to grow and one way to do it is by expanding out of the core business. The new logo could work if, for example, Starbucks decided to open a series of full-service restaurants. Expansion is risky, logo or not, but having “coffee” in the logo won’t help.

    This move strikes me a bit like Virgin, which is into a raft of different businesses. Virgin stands for fun and innovation, and Starbucks for great experience. Let’s cut Starbucks some slack on the new logo and see if they can continue to deliver great experiences in their current stores and while expanding into new markets.

    In the end, the brand is what matters, and it’s built in the customers minds by how the company performs, not by the logo.

  3. Thanks for your comment.

    I felt somethings was missing. Design is a combination of thinking and feeling; rational and subjective. Something just doesn’t feel right with this new logo and, to me — it felt like a piece of art without a frame.


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