Strategic branding

Starbucks: A Brand New Aroma

Sam Frentzel-Beyme Follow Managing Partner & Strategy Director

The Short of It

  • Starbucks is getting a new rebranding campaign.
  • The rebrand is meant to help the organization embrace its heritage while ensuring that it remains relevant and poised for future growth.
  • Changing the logo needs to be accompanied with real organizational change that infuses meaning into the new look.
  • Maecenas pellentesque leo et hendrerit sodales.

Poking through the Starbucks website the other day, I came across a link called The Future of Starbucks, which talked about the company's new rebranding campaign slated for release in Spring 2011. Howard Schultz, the chairman, president and chief executive officer had this to say:

“Throughout the last four decades, the Siren has been there through it all. And now, we’ve given her a small but meaningful update to ensure that the Starbucks brand continues to embrace our heritage in ways that are true to our core values and that also ensure we remain relevant and poised for future growth.”

And growth has been a big part of Starbuck’s success. With over 16,000 stores made up of around 137,000 employees in 50 countries around the world the company has come a along way from its 1971 Seattle roots to be one of the defining staple brands of our generation.

But what about the new look?

I think the change overall is a positive one and reflects the companies push towards distilling the brand down to it’s core essence. My first thought was also that the new brand identity was also more flexible without the words “Starbucks Coffee”, especially if the company wanted to expand into other areas of business. It felt like two other great brand identities that are beautiful in their simplicity: Apple and Nike.

But was there any truth to support this? A quick search turned up a couple things. First, Starbucks will be expanding into beer and wine. I’m not sure if they are doing this as part of the new Starbucks identity, but they definitely want to be part of more consumer hours beside just the morning wake-me-up venti. With more boutique restaurants offering a wider range of choices to consumers, this seems like a good move. The second thing I discovered was that Starbucks will be adding a new digital network to its stores that will feature free e-books, movies and other content. So yes, it seems that based on their strategic focus, their rebrand is to be a good fit. New but the same. Fresh, but distilled. A new chapter, expanding on an old story. (An interesting video on the changes to stores can be seen here.)

Which brings me to an area that we talk about with potential clients all the time: rebranding. Often clients want to talk a lot about the look and feel for something and are slightly surprised when we ask a lot of questions about strategy and operations. Our take is pretty much echoes the sentiment of Paul Rand who said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that there better be a really good reason to mess with a logo (even a bad one) since the logo doesn’t represent the company – the company represents the logo. In the end, change of the logo needs to be accompanied with real organizational change that infuses meaning into the new look. Not a bad thing to think about over your next venti Shiraz.

Every week, we highlight key transformations and trends. Follow us on Twitter.