Starbucks is rebranding, with a new brand logo dropping “Starbucks Coffee” from its mark. Author Jim Joseph wrote about it yesterday and invited me on Twitter to weigh in. One of Jim’s contentions is Starbucks is reaching for the same “we don’t need no stinkin’ name” status as McDonald’s, Nike, Target, and Apple.
That may be true, but there are fundamental differences in the market strategy for Starbucks and the other brands:
1. How They’ve Built Brand Identity
McDonald’s, Target, Apple, and Nike have all been significant investors in brand advertising and/or identity-building vehicles (i.e., sponsorships). Starbucks hasn’t followed the same marketing strategy. It’s earned its brand identity recognition with daily, right-in-front-of-your-eyeballs signage on what seems like on nearly every block in the country. Not saying one or the other is better, but they’ve clearly gotten there in different ways, setting the stage for different strategic contexts for this decision.
2. Simplicity and Strategic Brand Connections
The Apple and Target brand identity marks are memes – the brand symbol is the company name. The McDonald’s arches represent the first letter of its name. Granted, the Nike swoosh doesn’t hold the same connection to its name, but it does have simplicity going for it.
The Starbucks mark however, has a much more obscure connection to its name. It makes the audience work really hard to get it. For me (not a huge customer), I didn’t know it was supposed to be a Siren until reading Jim Joseph’s post yesterday. A Siren? Doesn’t make me think Starbucks. In addition, it’s still not simple visually, even with the changes being made to the logo.
3. Too Few Strategic Steps?
I’ll admit to not going back for the due diligence on this topic, but I don’t think the other brands made a two-step move in one step, i.e., dropping both name (Apple) and category (Computer) in one change. Starbucks is yanking both at the same time.
Was This Order Ready?
As a marketing strategy move, I think simplifying its logo makes sense for Starbucks. The brand identity change provides more category flexibility and makes a smart push for more iconic brand status.
It seems though that Starbucks has made a strategy move with more strategic risk than it had to take. Time will tell if there’s a Venti payoff for Starbucks, but it certainly won’t find itself iced over this change. – Mike Brown
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