There has been a lot blogged and written in the last week or so about the Starbucks logo change and on balance, it seems to have received a much more balanced response than other recent logo changesâ€¦no names mentioned!! Â Â Much of the consumer feedback not surprisingly has been centered on the new design, the most articulate piece in my opinion being by Howard Belk at Siegel & Gale.
Iâ€™d like to concentrate on two other aspects of the latest brouhaha regarding Starbucks. First by looking at the strategic side of this issue as this is where the reason for change originated.
So think about itâ€¦at a very fundamental level, brands have to put in place growth strategies in order to thrive and growth creates expectations for more growth. For very successful brands such as Starbucks, this can soon involve expanding into new adjacent categories as well as new geographies. This expansion often necessitates repositioning the brand, which results in changes across all of the brand visual expressions. Additionally, in the case of Starbucks, the competitive situation is intense and it is not surprising that in order to grow, the management team has to consider a range of new ideas and new experiences for the brandâ€¦many of which will lie outside of coffee.
So the new logo is simply just the first manifestation of the change in strategy and in many ways over the longer-term, it is not often the most important. But ironically, it is the one that consumers relate to and react to most vehemently. The real changes in the Starbucks brand and in its future financial performance will not be fully known or fully implemented for months and maybe years and this is definitely a case of â€śwatch this spaceâ€ť.
Whatever is contained in the new Starbucks master plan, it is quite clear that the word â€ścoffeeâ€ť is going to be a restriction to future growth and strategically, this was one of the first things that needed to be changed. There are many precedents for this â€“remember Apple Computer became Apple, Boston Chicken became Boston Market, Citibank became Citi, all in order to become more broadly-based.
The second point I want to raise is the whole issue of consumer involvement in brand decision-making.
We do know that any meaningful brand change is instantly assessed by consumers and most sensible companies would agree that not exposing and sharing the changes with them is a recipe for trouble.
But those of us with experience in this business know that asking consumers about change is always a hazardous business â€“ theyâ€™re consumers first and foremost and they are almost always going to favor the familiar. The fact that consumers have a much more powerful voice must obviously be incorporated into any brand change program but consumers are not responsible for the brand strategy or for brand performance and so we need to very carefully separate the issues of consumer feedback from overall brand accountability.
Starbucks seems to have done as good a job as possible in the transparent world in which we operate by focusing on the more objective, strategic reasons for change rather than on the more subjective, creative reasons for change. They have equally appeared totally comfortable and confident in the changeÂ – so much so that backing down to public pressure was never remotely an optionâ€¦or so it appeared.
Personally, I am excited about what lies â€śin storeâ€ť for Starbucks. Howard Schultz is a brand wizard and as he and his team begin to execute their new magic plan, we should all remember that memories are short and it wonâ€™t be many weeks before weâ€™ve all moved on to something else and the Starbucks logo issue is downgraded to no more than a storm in a tea-cup!!