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The Starbucks Logo Saga Continues

January 09, 2011

The story won’t go away. Just when you thought everything had been said that could be said about the updating of the Starbucks logo, someone comes along and posts yet another wrinkle on the subject. On his website this past week, India’s Andhra Pradesh quoted a Rice University study that the change in the Starbucks logo design could be a boost for the coffee shop leader.

The marketing department at Rice conducted research on the changing of the logo, or branding, and found that the more someone is committed to a company or product, the more upset he is at any change in the logo representing that product. The consumer sees the symbol as a stable connection to the company and when it’s changed it is seen as a violation of a “psychological” contract.

Starbucks risked losing some customers to remove all lettering in the logo. The company is developing a presence in China and wanted to make the logo more relevant there. Another study found that the rounder shape of the new logo is more appealing to cultures valuing harmony. Because such a culture exists in China, India, Taiwan and Singapore, the researchers think the new logo will bring in more new customers in these countries. Starbucks is expanding in China currently and is knocking at India’s and Taiwan’s doors. There are a number of Starbucks shops in Singapore already.

The article comments that loyal customers should be consulted when any change is suggested in a symbol of a business such as a logo. Starbucks has changed it’s logo slightly four times over its forty years. Many coffee drinkers might not have noticed or paid much attention to the past changes. This time however, taking off the words brings a very different look to the logo. Still, it’s hard to imagine that fans of a product would become so attached to a logo.

Nevertheless, it appears Starbucks missed a great marketing opportunity by going ahead with the logo change without involving the company’s fans. Think of all the contests and promotions they could have had, keeping the company in the news for months and creating a sense of ownership in the branding among long-time customers. But of course, when you are the top leader in the coffee merchandising business, why worry?



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