About the New Starbucks Logo…

So it’s all over the Internet about the new Starbucks logo coming in March 2011, with an announcement in which the company specifically stated they are not The Gap, referring to The Gap logo fiasco of last year when they unveiled a new logo, which Vanity Fair called a “symbol of corporate banality”. I take their disclaimer to mean that, unlike The Gap, Starbucks won’t have the good sense to can the whole idea based on overwhelming negative customer response. So is it much ado about nothing?

The first thing I learned amid the initial hubbub was that the figure in the logo is apparently a siren, not a mermaid or a long-haired woman holding two fish. Who knew? Siren and coffee. I get that, now that I know. Had I not known, it wouldn’t be an issue though… it’s a recognizable mark. Someone on Twitter (I forget who) showed the new logo to here 2-year-old, who immediately said, “Starbucks!” so I don’t think they have a recognition problem. But I’ve decided I don’t like the new logo.

Graphically, it looks to me like something’s missing. This could be caused by familiarity with the old logo, but as Olivier Blanchard suggests in his analysis (give it a read; his rework of the BMW logo alone is worth it), that’s still not a good thing. It does look a little bland compared to the old one, which means it’s not an improvement. A simple thin ring around the icon in brown or green would go a long way toward alleviating that, but the problem is bigger, and far more fundamental than getting the graphic right. The problem is why do it at all?

As Olivier says, the whole thing is unnecessary. Given that conclusion, I had to ask myself why they still felt they wanted it. The conclusion I reached is that it can only be for self-congratulatory reasons. Nike has a simple logo that’s immediately identifiable even without the company name. So do Apple, Pepsi, McDonald’s, and Mercedes-Benz. And I take this move to mean that Starbucks is trying to join an elite club of branding success here. Odd, considering Starbucks is already a model example of a well-established brand. They’re already in the club, with no need to flaunt it — and that’s what makes the whole thing look a little self-serving to me. There are an equal or greater number of logos that include some form of wordmark and are just as great a branding success.

I’m not swayed by the reasoning of Starbucks’ creative department on this. Maybe they fell prey to the desire to have a logo developed in-house, by them. (Does anyone know if their tenure is more than a decade now, to test this notion?) I’ve spoken before about some of my opinions about branding and some of the inane ideas about rebranding that still float around out there, some of them outmoded since the 70’s. This one won’t add to the company identity, it won’t clarify anything, and it won’t add to the bottom line. As such, it can only harm the company, both in terms of cost and the high (and very real) risk of damage to their reputation.

It won’t keep me from visiting my favorite baristas, but I’ve submitted My Starbucks Idea: “don’t change the logo.” (It’s not just me.) Personally, I was never a real fan of the coffee itself at Starbucks (the whole “burnt beans” thing) but it was the service — the experience — that won me over. And a new logo won’t enhance that in any way.

I hope the company isn’t losing it’s focus and signaling that it’s going to stray again. They’ve already been bitten by that dog, and I hope they consider that, cast a glance at The Gap, and wise up. Given that I wrote part of this post at my local Starbucks and they just handed me a sample cup with the new logo on it, I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s already too late. And despite the new logo images, the cup has a small black logo, not a green one. Maybe they should have just printed the cup in yellow and just put the word “Coffee” on it.