Leslie Chong is a J.D. candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.
Starbucks has recently proposed a newly revamped logo to represent their company – a seemingly simple change that has prompted much furor among their loyal customers and business commentators alike. This coming March, the company’s logo will cease to include the words “Starbucks Coffee” that have enveloped their famous siren since the company first started in 1971. This reformulation has left many wondering whether their pared down logo will have adverse effects on the company’s branding.
Experts have questioned whether the siren on its own will be sufficiently distinctive and recognizable to new customers, or whether the logo is not sufficiently clear in establishing that Starbucks is a purveyor of coffee-related products. Some have cited the removal of the word ‘coffee’ as a natural evolution for the company who has been aiming to diversify in the products that they offer, but many are still questioning whether dropping their name “Starbucks” is necessary or beneficial to this cause.
While many customers have been quick to criticize the move, others in favour of the change have suggested that Starbucks’ rebranding is a positive change aimed at selling their brand more so than a commodity (their coffee) which aims to increase their profits substantially. In explaining his decision to ‘make-under’ their logo, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz explained “Even though we have been and always will be a coffee company and retailer, it’s possible we’ll have other products with our name on it and no coffee in it”.
Some customers are wary about the change, fearful that Starbucks may have lost its roots and that the quality of their coffee may suffer in their attempt to diversify their merchandise. Others have jokingly pointed at the evolution of the company’s logo, and worry that it may one day be trimmed down to the point where it may “soon be nothing but an extreme close-up of the mermaid’s nose”. For a company that has often been quick to protect their trade-marked logo, it remains to be seen whether their new streamlined design will be more difficult to protect and lead to the possibility of brand dilution. As it stands, the public discussion that this unveiling has raised ought to be cause for concern with Starbucks’ head office, especially given the recent rebranding debacle that GAP had experienced. Hoping, rather, to fall in Nike’s footsteps (who has famously dropped their name from the brand, leaving only the still-recognizable ‘swoosh’ design), Starbucks remains optimistic that their customers will be able to recognize their siren despite dropping their company’s name from the logo.