Starbucks, the frappuccino-hawking giant that's fallen on hard times in recent years, has subtly altered its logo -- a design move that, quiet though it may be, hints at big changes on the way.
The logo -- which will be formally released this spring to coincide with Starbucks's 40th anniversary -- is now green, instead of green and black, and sheds the company name altogether, leaving only the famed siren. Other than that, it appears unchanged.
Overall, the new look is simpler and more iconic, if rather uninspired (which is round about what you'd expect from a company known from Columbus to Cairo -- whether fairly or not -- as the McDonald's of coffee). "It embraces and respects our heritage, and at the same time, evolves us to a point where we feel it's more suitable for the future," CEO Howard Schultz says in a video interview. "... it gives us the freedom and flexibility to think beyond coffee."
Yikes! Is that a euphemism for colonizing the world? Actually, in a way, yeah. The logo is part of Starbucks's master plan to spread its brand to other products, retail outlets, and countries. With a pared-down new logo, the thinking goes, it'll be better positioned to do precisely that. Which makes sense. You don't need "Starbucks Coffee" on a bottle of beer anymore than you need it on a store somewhere in China, where no one speaks English. It's superfluous for a company that's selling a lot more than coffee.
Still, it's a gutsy move. How many companies besides Nike and Apple -- two brands with insanely loyal customers -- are willing to drop their name from their logo? (Apparently, both companies inspired the redesign.) So in taking this route, Starbucks is showing how deeply and confidently it has permeated the culture. By now, we're all familiar with the creation myth: the first store in Seattle's Pike Place back in '71; the improbable expansion in the '90s and the sudden onslaught of perfectly respectable people tossing around pretentious, meaningless words: "tall," ?grande,? "venti."
We're also familiar with the decline: The stores closing in record numbers, the stocks falling, that awful attempt to push awful instant coffee. The company is making a valiant effort to turn around by emphasizing things like employee training, localized shops, and access to Wi-Fi, and it seems to be working. As Schultz said at the logo's unveiling in Seattle earlier, "We're sitting today with record revenue, record profit; the stock price is at a five-year high." The new logo is just the latest step in this assured forge ahead. Let's hope consumers share the optimism.