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  1. JefftheSensei / Jan 10 2011 15:58

    Hey Tom,

    It seems we can’t escape this controversy and the controversy that is the controversy. Why is this so important and what are we missing that Starbucks and their customers know that we don’t?

    Maybe this evolutionary change was driven by customer interaction? I have been spending a lot of time on in their customer community and I have a different perspective on this – trying to find that story you speak of. Working the post today, but appreciate your take on it given your role/pedigree.

    Your understanding of brand change in beverage industry has a little more impact than others weighing in; not to discount their views of course – You just have more Klout 🙂

    Cheers mate!

    Jeff – Sensei

  2. Paul Biedermann / Jan 10 2011 16:13

    Great post, Tom, and thanks for the mention! Always great to get your insights!

    I agree that Starbucks’ logo launch, if indeed that’s what it was, was too little too soon and put all the emphasis on “the logo”. Since it’s apparent that people love to hate logo changes, Starbucks invited the criticism.

    But if the strategy is sound, why the impulse to generate early excitement with the logo? Going back to your haircut analogy, it’s like running out of the barbershop unable to contain your excitement as soon as the first locks hit the floor. Sure, they may see value in testing the waters, but this timidity causes its own problems.

    The full rollout is yet to come but I believe that if it was done correctly, the logo would have been introduced along with the broader brand strategy that supports an even bigger brand story. Few companies seem to have the guts to do it right these days.

  3. Matthew / Jan 10 2011 16:33

    Thanks for this great read, Tom! Storytelling is hot to talk about in content development or blogging, but overlooked in branding. This furthers the statement “brands are experiences”.

    What the logo looks like isn’t as important as how Starbucks is delivering on their customer experience. More often than not, rebranding is a knee-jerk reaction to generate attention and not done to foster a better brand experience.

  4. Robin / Jan 10 2011 16:38

    I have been one of the people talking about the logo change in #UsGuys and while I am not a coffee drinker, I am quite aware of Starbucks. How can you not be in the U.S.? I do go in on the rare occasion for a white hot chocolate and a slice of marble cake though.

    My problem with the logo is the siren wasn’t a major part of the logo for me. I’ve never thought about the siren when I think about the Starbucks logo. I think about the outer ring and the name, Starbucks Coffee. To me, the logo has lost definition and become unfamiliar.

  5. tom martin / Jan 10 2011 17:09


    Love so many points in this post from “consumer doesn’t own the brand/logo” to “story around the reason for changing the logo” — such great insights. Love the haircut analogy.

    I often wonder why brands make changes to logos. I can understand if the brand is in trouble or needs to distance itself from a former self, category or issue…but for a strong brand like Starbucks, you have to ask yourself why would they mess with a good thing?

    And if they were going to do this — why wouldn’t they roll it out as part of a larger, integrated marcom strategy behind a major corporate shift… roll that story (to use your word) out to employees, consumers, shareholders, and the media in a coordinated, staged manner vs just “hey, we’ve redesigned out logo” and push that single message to everyone.

    Shame…as you note, missed opp.

  6. Lefreddie / Jan 10 2011 18:17

    Thanks for the mention Tom. You are so right about how a change needq to enhance the experience. Facilitate it, allow for a new venture, make it more fun, anything as long as there is something in it for the customer.

    Now do customers own the brand? No…but…but it only exists in their mind. Very often we’re here to take brands forward in ways they would have never thought of.
    Only here it’s forward without meaning, and thats’s often backwards…

  7. Jackie Coughlan / Jan 10 2011 18:56

    Hi Tom,

    I’m always interested to see what you have to say about branding and marketing, especially given the beginning of the #usguys group and it’s origins in the Gap logo debacle.

    I’m a huge Starbucks fan and attached to the brand I know. I was a little taken aback by the new logo, but view it more as a customer than from a business or tactical perspective. It reminds me most of when Apple changed from the hippy/geeky, rainbow apple that I loved, to the sleek new white Apple logo that’s everywhere today. I just felt puzzled and faintly miffed. Same now for Starbucks. I like the old logo. I don’t really get in my bones why they feel the need to improve on success. The whole thing is very man-behind-the-curtain to me. That said, I just shrug and assume there must be something I don’t know. The new logo is pretty, not so bad. Nice and clean. Apple has done incredibly well since their redesign. I still miss the rainbow stickers. I will miss the green ring, too, I think.

    Your comments help me get a clearer sense of what the fuss is all about, so I appreciate the education.

  8. Patrick Prothe / Jan 10 2011 19:03

    You nailed with their focus on ‘Look at me’ and missing the compelling story. Outside of Sr. Management and shareholders, people don’t care about the corporate strategy. They care about the experience and what’s in it for them.

    While their change isn’t exactly bad or tragic, removing the Starbucks name is part of the opportunity missed. People I talk to locally ask me what a mermaid has to do with coffee. When I mention it’s part of their heritage I get a ‘so what’ – reinforcing the notion of missing a great opportunity to create a stronger connection.

    Maybe they should have led with the roll out then talked about the logo change. I’m looking forward to seeing how they execute, but definitely don’t see this as a huge faux paux like The Gap.

  9. Ian M Rountree / Jan 10 2011 19:24

    I wonder at the reasoning, if not the story. There’s always a why – but there are also always more why questions than one. It’s not just why the new logo – it’s also why now? Why not some other time? Why this and not that? It’s always complicated.

    So; if Starbucks has a story behind the logo change, what do you figure it is?

  10. Paul L'Acosta / Jan 10 2011 19:24

    Tom, not only thank you for such an interesting look at all these stormy grounds created by so-so marketing teams, but also for the two links to Paul’s and Freddie’s blogs. Very interesting points of view over there as well. See you soon. Cheers! ~Paul

  11. Howie at Sky Pulse Media / Jan 11 2011 19:04

    Love this post Tom. There is a great debate on the last Beancast Podcast on the Logo issue worth listening too with Mitch Joel, Joseph Jaffe, Sloane Kelly and Natalie Zmuda. They discuss who owns a logo. Natalie gave feedback on AdAge surveys where many consumer feel they should be consulted before a change.

    But I think where Starbucks is going to be challenged has zero to do with the logo and all to do with what they sell. They sell consistency more than anything else. Their coffee surely does not rank for taste and it is over priced. But you know exactly what you are going to get every time. They are like McDonalds. You know they have a clean restroom, the food is way over priced but tasty and also consistent. They sell consistency. And we love that.

    Will be interesting to see what they branch into because they might think they sell Coffee. But they don’t.

  12. Stephen Denny / Jan 12 2011 12:37

    Tom: you hit upon a very important point here, so thanks for that. Logo changes are fascinating for all of us on Twitter – it gives us something to chatter about, not for nothing – but importantly, it also gives the brand an excuse for telling/re-telling its story. SBUX kind of sort of did that, but it wasn’t really the central issue. It was findable, not front and center. A missed opportunity.

    There’s a great story, steeped in literature, geography and mythology behind the SBUX logo. There’s the evolution of a powerful global brand into other exotic spaces. And then there’s a 1 color cling cal logo change. They had an opportunity not only to tell/re-tell their story, but to create more mystery and “interestingness” here.

    Ah, the world will keep spinning. Consumers won’t really care. This is a subtle point. Good points made here, thanks!

  13. Carol L. Weinfeld / Jan 17 2011 02:33

    Agreed. Hopefully the evolution of the logo and the brand will also lead to an evolution of increased customer value.


  14. Brand Cosmos / Jul 19 2011 12:57

    Hello Tom,

    This is Tarandeep, I am a brand Management student in India…First of all thanks for such a lovely article….really helped me a lot…
    My personal take Starbucks logo don’t work for me. I mean if they were expanding in new Categories within logo atleast Starbucks & circle should have been there if not coffee.

    Same rebranding exercise was done by a brand in India called Airtel when they totally changed their logo and called it wave but response was pathetic for consumers.They showcased change as a sign of evolution and to get in power with Vodafone but it didn’t work for them.I agree with your point totally Logo is for consumers and need to find a place in their hearts.


  1. What’s in a Name? Don’t Ask Starbucks | Heidi Cohen

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