Tuesday, January 11, 2011

In Defense of Starbucks

I read this commentary and it makes sense.

Still I have my reservations, not about the logo design, but what is Starbucks going to be anyway?

From Mediapost:

Unshackling Starbucks' Logo by Vikas Mittal

As our research shows, highly committed consumers react negatively to logo redesigns. To the extent that highly committed consumers are closely connected to the brand, any change can be seen as negative. This is why such changes should be deliberate and carefully managed.

Some experts also are criticizing Starbucks' move to drop "Starbucks" and "coffee" from its logo. Such criticisms may be shortsighted. Realize that major markets for Starbucks lie abroad and not within the U.S. Starbucks has about 400 stores in China and plans to triple that in the next few years. Similarly, it is set to enter India in the next couple of years with a presence in many other countries and cultures.

In such a multicultural, multilingual, and ethnically diverse marketplace, it is important for Starbucks to consolidate its logo by simplifying it, removing linguistic elements, and broadening its value proposition, which is not limited to coffee alone.

By simplifying the logo, Starbucks has obviated the need to translate the words "Starbucks" and "coffee" on its logo into many different languages as it enters regions where English is not the main language. It may seem difficult now, especially to U.S. consumers, but in the long run a visual logo without text will do Starbucks a lot of good. Obviously, the benefits will only materialize if Starbucks supports its brand positioning through marketing-mix elements such as innovative products, high-quality service, and the café ambience people have come to associate with the brand experience.

Could customers get confused if they don't see the words "Starbucks" and "coffee" enmeshed within the logo? It is possible, but not probable. Unlike branding experts who seem to focus on the logo as an isolated entity, customers are usually not presented with the Starbucks logo in isolation. In most cases, customers are in a Starbucks café and know they are buying Starbucks coffee.

When buying Starbucks products in the supermarkets, the logo is displayed on the packaging, which also shows the brand name and the product description, as well as a differentiating message. It is these latter elements that need to be adapted based on the culture and language of the various international markets. Many companies have successfully adopted such a strategy to have a global brand with local roots, and there's no reason why Starbucks cannot do that also.

Starbucks has become an iconic American brand. However, it must now reach beyond the U.S. and become a world-leading brand. From this perspective, un-shackling linguistic barriers ("must spell Starbucks in English on the logo") and crossing the product chasm ("must say coffee") is a necessary first step for Starbucks.

Clearly, Starbucks must support its logo redesign with appropriate investments and resources designed to deliver on the brand promise -- high-quality product, superior service, and distinctive psychological associations. CEO Howard Schultz has the right ideas -- and execution capacity -- in that regards. Let's sit back, take a sip, and enjoy!

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