Serving as an exemplar for brand loyalty and consumer engagement, Starbucks is evolving once again, and dropping the company name along the way. Two weeks ago, Starbucks announced it would update its globally recognizable logo by keeping solely the mermaid, or I mean the Siren, and drop both the company name and the word coffee.
Intended to launch in honor of the company’s 40-year anniversary, the cleaner and simpler version of the logo will be released in all stores on March 8th, but the wait has not kept consumers quiet with their opinions regarding the logo update.
As only the fourth change since Starbucks emerged in 1971, Starbucks is attempting to step out with the proclamation that the brand is not only strong and confident enough to be represented by solely a pictorial logo without its name, but also as a company that can venture into a market beyond coffee in 2011.
According to a statement made by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, the new logo embraces and respects the company’s heritage while allowing Starbucks to evolve for the future. This change is the first in a line of transformations consumers can expect throughout 2011 from the company, including updates to store design and cup design.
But, a lot of people are wondering why the most frequently visited company in the world, and arguably the most recognizable brand worldwide, is making changes when it is evident that their current marketing strategies are powerful and successful. Starbucks certainly does not want to follow in the footsteps of the Gap, who was the subject of public resistance and media backlash in October for suggesting a logo change, but rather Schultz is hopeful that the company can remain the dominant force in its market without the company name complimenting the logo – a feat Nike has accomplished with its iconic swoosh.
So how does Starbucks plan to make the logo change an overwhelming success in spite of current consumer complaints across the Internet? By being thoughtful with the evolution of its brand, by taking the transformation slowly, and by offering countless justifications to consumers along the way. Nothing at Starbucks is rushed – we know that when we wait ten minutes for one latte – and nothing at Starbucks is accidental, which is why the logo change could be a success unlike that of the Gap who has already reverted back to its signature look.
Only three years ago, Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce, and Culture hit bookshelves worldwide. In it, author Taylor Clark describes the Starbucks Experience, a term created by Schultz, and the full control the company holds over its brand image. Clark notes that everything in a Starbucks is intentional, from the obsessively monitored store environment down to the white paper cups – it is all a product of deliberation and psychological research. And once again, we can see this holding true with the new logo.
Starbucks does not make a change just to make a change. The company has its reasons, always. While Schultz understands that consumers are highly committed and attached to a brand-because why else would they voice their opinions and concerns across social media sites-he also feels that refreshing a logo is an important step to showing company progress. Estranging committed customers is always a possibility, but it is one that Starbucks is confident it can sidestep.
For customers who are highly committed to the brand, the Starbucks logo serves as a visual channel for identifying the company, and when this logo is altered, problems can arise. Initially, public reaction was negative toward Starbucks’ announcement, but top marketing executives and business professors have spoken out in favor of the update.
While consumers say the simpler logo appears unfinished, Professor Nancy Koehn of Harvard University released a statement commending Starbucks on what she believes will end in corporate success. “What I am certain of [in regards to the logo change] is that Starbucks and its CEO, Howard Schultz, have a history of breaking new ground with the company’s brand, and that one of the core attributes of this brand is customer engagement. Seen from these two vantage points, I’m betting that Starbucks will come out a winner with this move,” said Koehn.
The point is that consumers get very invested in brands, but that does not mean that an image update is not possible if properly executed. According to Mike Peck, Senior Design Manager for Starbucks, the brand refresh was a strategic decision. The company took time making the decision, both Peck and Schultz offered reasoning for the update, and the company continues to stand behind its original value of sparking an emotional connection with its customers. But as two-way communication via the Internet continues to expand, companies need to balance their desire to evolve for the future with the need to account for consumer concerns.
Creating a brand experience, like the Starbucks Experience, and engaging loyal consumers prove to be the most successful marketing strategies currently in practice. Every company wants to be the Starbucks of its industry, and this can be done by creating and sustaining a meaningful connection between the consumer and the brand. A logo change can be a way to get the public talking on social media sites, but offering consumers a reason to calm concerns is equally as important. Evolving a brand for the future is important, but don’t neglect your loyal customers along the way.
Photo taken from http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/12/whose-logo-is-it-anyway/