A Coffee by Any Other Name—and Even No Name

starbucks old.JPGThere are several things that I don’t cross: pit bulls, grouchy neighbors and the early-morning lineup of people at Starbucks. The latter haven’t had their caffeine yet.

Starbucks will turn 40 this year. As an anniversary promotion that will “carry this iconic brand across markets and into the future,” it will ax the verbiage from its well-known green-and-white Siren logo. No more “Starbucks Coffee” surrounding her. Now the mermaid goes solo, without the ring.

It’s not the first time the sea maiden has had some work done, but it’s perhaps the most pivotal. John Quelch, a Harvard Business School marketing professor, said of the change, “The brand is now evolving to a point where the coffee association is too confining and restrictive. Starbucks is fundamentally selling an experience, but by no means is coffee the only part of the experience. It is important that they not have a logo that is too confining.”

starbucks new.JPGQuelch is right about Starbucks’ evolution—and its experience. The company is now a venue for musicians, filmmakers, film students and, if its future plans succeed, much more. You can’t walk into the coffee (?) shop without noticing that it does a lot more than java. It’s even been called a “self-appointed cultural guru” that has deeply entrenched itself into pop culture.

Here’s an official statement from the Starbucks website:

For people all over the globe, [the Siren] is a signal of the world's finest coffee—and much more. She stands unbound, sharing our stories, inviting all of us in to explore, to find something new and to connect with each other. And as always, she is urging all of us forward to the next thing. After all, who can resist her?

I often can’t. But does all of this mean we’ll have to call it the Coffee Formerly Known as Starbucks? (I doubt it will renege like Prince did.)

I also wonder what the rest of the Starbucks “experience” will gradually morph into. And time will tell whether the new logo grows on me. Personally, I think it’s bland. The company agonized over its decision to change it, but to me, the new Siren lacks character and … well, oomph. Has Starbucks overextended itself?

Who wrote this?

Meredith has had two careers: one as a writer/editor for both Focus on the Family and The Navigators, and one as an English teacher trekking far-flung corners of Europe, Africa and Asia. She now rejoins Focus, but with souvenirs—including new eyes with which to better view American culture.

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