To celebrate its 40th anniversary, Starbucks has revealed a new logo, to a warmer reception than that of Gap, probably because it has stayed with its core brand imagery, dropping the iconic Starbucks typography and moving forward with only the siren in its signature green shade.
Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz explains their reasoning to “allow the siren to come out of the circle in a way that gives us the freedom and flexibility to think beyond coffee” and reassures everyone ”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”.
Businessweek notes, “Starbucks has never been just about coffee. It has always been about selling an experience.” In fact, Starbucks’ strong focus on music (see: Love Project) in leveraging it to craft its brand identity had Starbucks shoppers accountable for 1/3 of all CD sales. (Of course positioning the CDs as an impulse buy at the cash register and selecting favorite “Starbucks artists” to display—after all, Starbucks is a taste maker, pun intended—makes it much simpler for folks than the aisles of messy CDs in Wal-Mart.)
But the overwhelming growth of Starbucks has translated into a loss of authenticity, and a tough economy made $4 skinny lattes a luxury good, which forced Starbucks to shut down stores nationwide. CEO Hughes, navigating the Starbucks ship with siren at helm toward multimillion dollar worldwide domination, quickly acknowledged there can be something as too much growth (the branding laws of Ries are, after all, “immutable” - see Rule No. 1: Law of Expansion). Starbucks hired corporate eyes to do research, studying the ambiances of successful mom-and-pop shops for months to try to recapture the essence of its neighborhood coffeehouse charm, which Starbucks had lost in its nationwide replication of its store design.
CEO Hughes’ current statement shows how symbolic this rebrand is: by removing the “Starbucks Coffee” typography circle around Little Miss Siren, they will be freeing the mermaid and themselves to continue pushing forward as a lifestyle brand and training the new generation to recognize this brand imagery so they can move into new frontiers, such as serving beer and wine.
As brand specialist Scott Bradbury (previously of Nike and Starbucks) commented, “Brands have to evolve or die,” he says. “It’s a tall order. But if anyone can pull it off, it will be Starbucks.” And the new logo is simply phase 1 of this evolution.