Starbucks’ Cup of Controversy

Will devotees still drink from a cup without the familiar name?
Posted January 10, 2011

Starbucks is making headlines again – not for introducing a new seasonal sweet beverage to fuel our coffee addictions or even over the price its can charge for a regular cup of joe. At the start of 2011, the world’s largest coffee company announced it’s introducing an updated logo to coincide with its 40th year in business.

The biggest change: The new logo no longer includes the Starbucks name. And for a more streamlined design, the outer green circle has been removed. But it’s still a white cup with that signature green color.

And sure, looking at it, I recognize that siren (who’s a little bigger in this new look) and know her brand allegiance. But something seems to be missing.

In a video posted on Starbucks’ web site, ceo Howard Schultz says the evolution does two things for the company: It embraces and respects the company’s heritage while also evolving it to a point that feels more suitable for the future.

“I think it gives us the freedom and flexibility to think beyond coffee,” he said.

Recently, Starbucks has been adding more food offerings – some locations even offer adult beverages – and locations are being redesigned with elements that connect more with the local community. Is anyone reading the “tea leaves” here?

During a recent business trip, I stopped inside a Starbucks for a drink and found, to my delight, a grab-and-go box of cheese, crackers and fruit. It was nice to eat something besides a calorie-busting muffin for a mid-afternoon snack. But the reason I was there was for the coffee. As Starbucks looks ahead to its next 10, 20 or 40 years in business, it shouldn’t try too hard to forget its roots. Coffee.

In a replay of the nightmare Gap went through last fall when it tried to introduce a new logo on its Facebook page, Starbucks is catching some flak. Comments on its own web site show less than enthusiastic support for the new look.

Don’t get me wrong, logo design is a tricky business. It’s difficult to find the right one, then build it into a cultural icon. It’s even trickier when you start messing with it. Few have succeeded. Time will tell if Starbucks is on the winning side of the logo design battle or one to file under “worst ideas ever.”

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