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This is a very old entry — images are small, formatting is off.


Starbucks, Back to the Future

Reviewed Apr. 8, 2008 by Armin

Industry / Retailers Tags /

Starbucks Logo, Now and Now

Note: The original logo shown above is the original. The new one has been tweaked a little, but I don’t have a clear image of it to show.

The big news of the day has, undeniably, been Starbucks. The free coffee for 30 minutes sure helped. But also, it’s been a news item in the making since the 1990s when Starbucks started its insurmountable growth that would eventually come to compromise and cripple its original modus operandi of small, personable and unique. Or, less ominously, the news has been brewing (sorry!) since January of this year, when Howard Schultz took the reigns back as CEO — after an eight year respite from running the coffee empire he set ablaze in 1987 when he bought Starbucks — in order to resuscitate the unimaginably flailing brand. And, today, surrounding the unveiling of a new coffee bean, the Pike Place Roast, Starbucks unleashed an unprecedented wave of brand nostalgia by deploying the original Starbucks logo on the masses, starting with a sad replica of the original store, in New York’s Bryant Park.

Starbucks Cup

Starbucks cup replacing the typical cup. Photo swiped from the Wall Street Journal.

It is strange to see an old logo come back at these levels of production and visibility — unlike a professional sports team breaking out vintage uniforms for a few games, Starbucks must have invested too much money to even begin to guess and signals a commitment to making the change something more than an aesthetic whim. One of Schultz’s rallying cries has been to return Starbucks to its origins, but I doubt anyone expected this extreme. Stores around the country, starting with the original in front of Seattle’s Pike Place Market are already dressed in old logo regalia — you can see a 360-degree view of it (and more about the Pike Place Roast) here.

Pike Place Store

Pike Place Store

Samples of the 360-degree view of the Pike Place Market store in Seattle.

There is simply too much information available today on this topic to attempt to consolidate it here and, truth be told, it might all be better suited for a thorough article not written late at night. In fact, because others are pretty good at this reporting thing, I do encourage you to read this great article from Time magazine that tracks the imminent changes upon Schultz’s return to the company. And while you are at it, do catch up on the evolution of the Starbucks logo.

There is no telling how long the original logo will be around, but I doubt it will go away soon. It will be interesting to see what kind of effect it will have. Will it grow as much equity as the green logo? Will it wreak havoc and cause confusion? Will people fuss about nipples and open-tailed mermaids on their cups? Two experts (please note that I refrained from adding quotes around the word “experts”, I’m trying to inhibit my sarcasm) do think this is the wrong move:

Especially when the replacement is arguably less attractive. “They took a logo that was lively and made it dull,” says Alan Siegel, chairman and chief executive of Siegel+Gale, the big brand consultant that has done work for American Express, Dell and many others. “If they’re trying to communicate a message about going back to their roots, the cup doesn’t work.”

Brand consultant Al Ries of Ries & Ries puts it another way. “Brown is probably the worst possible color [for a logo],” he says. “The reason UPS has been successful with it is that no one else wants to touch the color.”
Grande Logo Switch: Is Starbucks’ New Cup Grabby-or a Grind?

Yeah, sure, the cup is somewhat dopey, unflattering, and lacks the finesse the rest of the Starbucks paraphernalia enjoys, but it sure signals change. And as an avid, nay, sole drinker of Starbucks coffee I hope all this leads, simply, to an even better cup, cleaner bathrooms, free wi-fi and the continued sense of reassurance that I get of seeing that green logo no matter where in the U.S. I might be — and, heck, a little glimpse of mermaid nudity might just be thing to go with my cup of coffee.



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