Posted January 6, 2011 7:14 am by with 44 comments

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There has been some hubbub in the past few days about a change in one of the iconic brands of the modern business era. Starbucks is dropping its name from its logo to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

We know our readers are very savvy marketers in general and that Internet marketing is more than just clicks and followers so we wanted your opinion on this move.

Is it a good idea for a brand, no matter what the size or power, to drop its name from the logo when it has been there since forever? What are the potential upside gains and / or downside losses? Tell us in the comments. Here’s the redesign.

My vote is to keep the company name. It’s what I used to see first in the logo and I honestly paid little if any attention to the mermaid. That’s just me though. What about you?

  • This is a bad move. How much time money and hard work went into establishing that logo as a worldwide brand? Why would you throw that away?
    I think that they need to include their name too.

  • Whether they should keep the name in the logo or not really comes to down to whether they actively consulted with their loyal customers first. It doesn’t matter what “improvements” you make to your logo, if your customer base is not included in the process you’ll end up with a “GAP” moment.

    Personally, I think they should keep the name in the logo. If you had shown me the new logo on a blank sheet of paper, I would struggle to recall the brand.

    • Unlike the Nike Swoosh, which is instantly identifiable, the mermaid is not. Moving away from the brand’s name in the logo assumes its audience has both noticed and recognized the image. This is an erroneous presumption. The name should definitely stay.

  • Ahh the Gap. Putting itself into the pantheon of marketing blunders along side the New Coke and others.

  • Unlike Frank and Andy, the mermaid is the part of the logo that sticks out to me. My gut feel is it’s a good change.

    I agree with Andy about checking with loyal fans. I’m not a GAP customer and didn’t really get the controversy over the logo change from that perspective. Obviously, though, the anti-change group was a force to be reckoned with. It’s certainly better to try to head that kind of thing off from the start.

    • @Elmer – That is what makes this kind of stuff very interesting because there will be no distinct right or wrong answer. I guess in the end it will simply be which side of the scale tips lower – the “I want the word” crowd or the “Mermaid is fine by me” crowd.

      One thing I didn’t mention is how this could make it more difficult for new customers to ID the brand. While most think “Who doesn’t know about Starbucks?!?!” there are plenty.

      • You are correct, Frank. While Andy’s point of consulting current customers is spot on, you also bring up the importance of focus-grouping non customers as well. While there are VERY few people in my world who don’t know Starbucks, there are probably many, many more out there who don’t.

        Any company looking to restyle logos and such needs to keep that in mind.

        I can’t imagine they’d drop the name from their packaging. As a couple people pointed out quite rightly, the stores have signs with the name all over the place – and the iconic scent. If they take the name off the logo, they would certainly need to put it somewhere on products they sell outside their stores.

  • Keir

    The thing that I immediately find whilst looking at the new logo is that it has somehow lost the impact of its predecessor. The open edges and the removal of the name make it look more like a mock-up than the finished piece. I agree with Andy, the mermaid on its own is not synonymous with the brand on its own unlike the combination of both the moniker and mermaid together in the same image.
    But then again only time will tell what the changes bring….

    • Jason

      This is absolutely what I was thinking, as well… Taking the name away changes the logo so much that I wouldn’t know what it was without actively thinking about it. Requiring me to actively think about it takes away a lot of “noticing” that people around me are drinking their product, which reduces available social proof.

      That doesn’t seem like a good idea.

  • Holls

    There’s a Mermaid in their logo? I guess I should more observant… Should have kept the name

  • Kevin Ramseur

    One question only for me – W H Y ?????????????????????????

  • Damien

    In all honesty, Starbucks stores are loaded with signs that still hold the STARBUCKS COFFEE text. 95% of store locations you drive to will obviously still have the featured logo (now without text) in a circular sign, and then a full text sign somewhere else, generally over the entrance or somewhere else that is prominent. In this instance, I think it is fine that the actual logo is now front and center.

    When it comes to the cups, there will obviously be a lot more text on it to convey that the customer is drinking a Starbucks coffee. Also, most customers use a sleeve which covers this logo anyways, so I don’t really see what all the fuss is.

    Also Howard points out that Starbucks now also sells a lot of non-coffee products, and causes consumer confusion when they brand are on these non-coffee products (i.e. strawberries and cream icecream).

    I think most people will come around (whether they like it, or not).

    • Once again it is very hard to tell until time shows us something. I think about the ‘great unwashed’ who have not darkened the door of a Starbucks store because they think it’s only coffee. They won’t go in the store to see the text on other things (and who’s to say that the in store won’t be impacted as well?

      Will be keeping an eye on this one.

    • Tim McDougall

      I’m not sure why it’s “obvious” that the cups will have a lot more text on them — I would be inclined to believe the opposite. If they wanted the text, they would have simply kept the old logo intact.

      Personally, I thought the green circle with reversed letters was their key visual. My guess would be that if you used that same circle and font and put greeking there instead of “Starbucks,” people would still recognize that as the Starbucks logo. My guess would also be that the mermaid doesn’t have the same power.

      That said, I haven’t seen the research they’ve done on this. it’d be fascinating to take a look at. Without it, we’re all just speculating at this point.

  • I sincerely don’t think it makes one difference either way. As far as brand recognition goes, by the time you’re close enough to see the logo you’ve likely already been taken in by the iconic smell of a Starbucks. 🙂

  • Ann Williams

    Having established a great brand over the years with that distinctive logo, it’s a risky move to artsy up the mermaid and lose the name. Little recognition in the mermaid alone. There’s more to this than just updating a logo here, there’s the psychological impact on an established customer base. The changes Starbucks needs to make to maintain and enhance their position in the marketplace should not include tearing up a trusted image.

    IMHO: Dumb.

  • Jamie Miller

    Agree with Andy that they should have consulted with their customers prior to making a change. At the very least to make them feel important and that they have a voice. I however, love it. As with most change, it will take some getting use to, but I love the fact that they took the intrinsic attributes (mermaid) of the brand and brought it front and center. Kudos to Starbucks! Crisp, Clean, Relevant, Meaningful, and Cool

  • My vote is to keep the Company Name! IMHO, it’s very important for starbucks’ brand to have the name on the logo. We’ll see how it plays out.

  • Talk radio, marketing news, social media. Right now “New Starbucks Logo” is even one of the 4 top stories on the bottom of Bing’s homepage.

    In the short term, their name and logo alike are getting a lot of press.

    I believe the figure is a “siren” and not a mermaid. That’s what their press has said. I agree that she looks more like a mermaid, however.

    • Tim McDougall

      They’ve consistently identified it as a siren in their company literature.

      However, Sirens are typically women with bird characteristics (wing/talons) in mythology, not fish tails. But to confuse matters further, in some cultures the word or siren and mermaid are essentially the same … so I guess Starbucks can call them that if they want.

      But I’m still going to call it a mermaid because that’s what consumers (and not the PR person) perceive it to be. (This thread would be a supporting data point.)

      Related information for those easily sidetracked 😉

      • I love mythology and all of the wonderful concepts to be found in it.

        Although I was trying to steer clear of that topic, look at what happened. “That’s no bird-woman! It’s a fish woman!” There is all kinds of amazing conversation happening around this one move. It almost certainly won’t last, but it’s sure to provide a good short-term boost.

  • The real shame here is that they established such a distinctive and well-recognised brand and have thrown it away. I personally think it’s a step further than natural evolution of the logo.

    If it ain’t broke… and all that.

    The new logo irritates me because it seems arrogant to assume that Starbucks has such omnipotence, they no longer even need to include their name in their own logo.

  • It’s a dumb move. Not much analysis needed although technically Andy is right (ask your customers). Still, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. To me this is just plain stupid.

  • As long as their is still a Starbucks on every corner, not sure a change to the logo is all that big of a deal. Especially when the change is relatively small.

  • To be honest, Ive never even noticed the image of the woman in the middle of the logo – i just glance, see the ‘Starbucks’ bit and move on. So making it simpler will probably encoourage people like me to take more notice and then realise it is their anniversary – so on that point they’ve probably acheived what they set out to do.

    Leaving all that aside, though, the new logo is basically rubbish and does nothing for me!

  • Van

    If you had asked me to draw the Starbucks logo from memory I would have remembered it was green and featured the words starbucks and coffee – with something else in the middle. After that would have guessed some remote symbol to do with coffee – ie not a mermaid or siren.

    This might be a good short term publicity stunt (for their 40th year) but you can guarantee the name will be back in the next rebranding.

  • Stacey

    In terms of branding, I drink Starbucks now and again but wouldn’t associate the mermaid right away if it were to stand on it’s own. In terms of design, I agree with some comments before, it looks like an unfinished product. Change is good but it depends on the situation; sometimes it must be a gradual change. Taking the name out all together from the branding might be too much too soon.

  • dean

    This is what happens when Marketing people have too much time on their hands.

    Starbucks makes coffee. Good, pricey coffee. People wait in line all day to drink their coffee. Starbucks should spend more time worrying about coffee – how to make it better, quicker, less expensive, with good customer experience in the stores.

    All this hand-wringing about logos baffles me. Can anybody show me any evidence of any company who fortunes (i.e. sales) were greatly impacted by a logo change? I will not accept the GAP nonsense as that debacle did not play out long enough to determine what the outcome would be. They just gave in to fake outrage- do you really think people were going to stop buying their chinos because they didn’t like the logo??? On that note, did anyone notice that Belk’s made a dramatic change to their logo without even a whisper of outrage? Have the New England Patriots suffered since their logo change. What about KFC, Burger King and GE? If a logo change accomplishes one thing, its to generate free publicity for the company, as people talk about the “logo change”, and that is short-lived strategy.

    Point is, at the end of the day it comes down to how good your product or service is. Everything else is ancillary.

    PS> By the way, I am a Marketing guy (albeit a cranky one)

    PPS> @ Frank The Gap and New Coke are completely different. The former was “just” a logo change. New Coke was a “product” change. Enormously different and illustrates my point.

    PPPS> Kudos to Starbucks for reaching the lofty status of a company that doesn’t need their name in their brand.

    I am going back to my cave now.

  • I think this is a huge mistake. The Starbucks logo including the name is iconic instantly recognisable. What’s the possible upside of changing it? I think marketing depts sometimes feel the need to change this kind of thing just to be changing something…too justify their existence, and I say that being a marketer myself. The cost of changing this logo on every store, on every piece of packaging and merchandise has to be huge. Unless one can show an ROI for changing it why would you?

    Granted logos which are outdated as far as their design goes may need to be changed from time to time but I don’t think that holds with the Starbucks logo.

  • Taking the name/text out of a logo and displaying the symbol alone is move of the BIG BOY brands. It’s like the next big step, like turning 21 and being able to drink. When you can finally take your name out of your logo and be recognized, you’re now a BIG brand. Companies like Nike, Apple, and Pepsi have enough brand recognition with out displaying their name. Personally, I don’t think that the Starbucks mermaid is well recognized enough to remove the other branding elements. It seems like the mermaid symbol design is too complex. Simple designs are easier to recognize.

  • I think the change in the logo is a negative thing, but it’s not as big of a deal to me as some of the other things they’ve done to cheapen their brand.

    I’m concerned about Starbucks planning to source coffee beans from China (up to 25% I’ve heard) and also adding kiosks in Safeway grocery stores.

    Starbucks projects itself as a premium brand, but some of these decisions don’t reinforce that impression.

  • Derek C

    Although the new logo has a clean and refreshing feel to it, changing a logo just for the purpose of making a change is *not* a good idea. As mentioned earlier, this smells of a marketing department which got bored and came up with some task to waste their time.

    There was another point made earlier that this logo was changed because Starbucks is moving into new product lines (ie. ice cream), but I would question the move for such a brand extension in the first place. In producing ice cream, Starbucks is moving far beyond its brand identity and risks spreading it’s brand too thin. This would signal a practical reason for the logo change, but a poor strategic move overall by Starbucks.

    Ultimately, what Andy said was right: ask your customers first. And don’t fix what ain’t broke.

  • Louise c

    Not a fan. Other than the star – Its just a cloven handed lady with the Sydney opera house on her head – to me that says sucks not bucks.
    Just keep it on styro cups in coffee shops and people will know what it means.

  • I like the minimalistic approach, might appeal to some core users. Changing such an iconic logo can’t be a wise decision, unless of course there are fundamental problems with the brand (which I doubt there are). As Seth would say “Don’t just do something, sit there!”

  • brian

    It is not wrong for brands to develop how they connect with the customer. Strong brands continue to innovate to keep ahead of the competition. Those that dont, risk losing to those that are, and ultimately die out.

    The changes to the logo are possibly a response to customers needs and expectations of the brand (the customer may not even know what they want even if asked, hence why successful brands predict and innovate).

    Starbucks may also wish to change how they are perceived and is certainly partly driven by Starbucks diversifying into other markets. It may also be an indencation that they wish to further enter new markets. For a mature brand of this size to not diversify would be madness and they may have reached their growth potential and be looking to ensure continued growth.

    Diversifying and innovating makes total sense however the majority of commentators here don’t understand that this may be driving the change and that this change is probably more than just a pretty picture and playing around with a few letters (the round logo will still be paired with the wordmark Starbucks in the same way Nike still uses its wordmark) just because there’s nothing else to do. Yes this and its other startegic decisions may be proven to be a mistake, it wouldnt be the first time a brand has got it wrong but on the other hand it could be part of a strategy that sees them experience a signifcant increase in growth. Whether that is a good thing is another discussion!

  • What cranky marketing guy Dean said. I don’t think the new logo is going to confuse anyone and also – it’s coffee, not a Chanel bag. The product is far more important than the logo in this non-luxury vertical.

  • I’m not a designer, so I won’t critique the logo itself.

    That said, I hope they manage to avoid logo panic. As I wrote in a blog post yesterday, an established company with a new logo is like an old friend with new glasses:

  • I think it’s a good move. I wrote about it here:

  • Marco

    My mental image of the Starbucks logo has always been the white “Starbucks Coffee” wording in a green circle with some vague interior of the circle that I’ve never looked at carefully enough to identify. I have to believe that many other people saw the logo similarly. So, they’re changing their logo to the part of their old one that many people never paid attention to. I can’t see anything positive coming from it.

  • I think they should keep the company name. To me, the Starbucks name has been their logo in my mind. I don’t know the significance of the mermaid, nor have I really ever paid attention to it either!

  • I’m sure the person who propose that is already been fired, star bucks is not nike, the ferrari, or mcdonalds, they need words in their logo…

  • I’ll agree, most people don’t even notice the mermaid. I remember in college during a lesson about branding the instructor mentioned the mermaid and at that moment I realized that while it had always been there I had never actually paid attention to what the center of the logo was. The iconic branding came from the name Starbucks Coffee that surrounded the mermaid.

    I think brands can allow their logo to evolve over time, as Starbucks has over the years, but as an established brand you need to keep in mind what elements of your branding stick with the consumer. If Starbucks thinks the mermaid is what stands out to most, I think their marketing department needs a reality check.

  • I’ve liked the evolution up to now. I think that the brand name Starbucks is so recognizable and trendy that they should keep it on the cup. People tote the cups around doing free marketing for the company and while people like me that have been drinking Starbucks forever might recognize the mermaid, new comers (like teens), may not get it.