Just in time to cure lingering New Year’s hang-overs, Starbucks announced a change to its logo: no longer will “Starbucks” and “coffee” appear on its products. Just a tailed siren will stay put, coloured in white and green. Pundits, journalists and coffee lovers each have a view. While reaction has been mixed, on key criticism is being voiced: that the logo change may limit Starbucks’ capacity to deliver on its ‘core’ product; coffee.
Yet in my view, these concerns are misguided. The logo change reflects a broader business and brand strategy.
New joiners at The Value Engineers receive weekly training on all areas of branding in a course called ‘The University of Gav’ – named after one of our experienced Engineers. A core lesson of our Uni is that brands must deliver through its products. Richard Brandson, the serial entrepreneur, said as much: “The brand is only as good as your product”.
So, where does this fit into Starbucks? Three years ago, it was down in the dumps – Frappachinos did not taste as sweet in the context of the global recession. Its CEO battled back: closing stores, but also diversifying products: in addition to coffee, it expanded into icecream, music, and tasty in-store snacks. Since 2009, it has run a series of unbranded stores that serve as ‘laboratories’ for new in-stores concepts, such as ‘open mic’ nights – a favourite of poets everywhere.
Moreover, as international sales become more important to Starbucks, a broader sense of its brand becomes important. Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Taiwan may already have local coffee favourites, but what they get with the new Starbucks logo is something bigger: a unique in-store experience that delivers beyond coffee.
In sum, it is not all about coffee anymore. To be successful as a business, Starbucks needed to be something bigger – and that’s what the logo represents. It is a source of entrainment: a brand that represents quality across its products and does so while being a responsible corporate citizen. The new logo isn’t just a visual gimmick – it represents Starbucks’ broadening ambition.