New Starbucks Logo Infuriating Loyal Customers

Posted: January 10, 2011 in Brand management

Most probably Starbucks is the first name that comes to mind as you want a cup of coffee. It is not only easy to come by all around the city or shopping centers but also marvellous enough to make you addicted to Starbucks, to this iconic brand.

The green logo of the company, with a female siren including its name and the word “coffee”,  is instantly recognizable. This logo as a shorthand symbol seems to represent far more than just a brand of coffee. As a result, the brand comes to embody the myth by developing a unique identity over time.

Recently, Starbucks Corp, the world’s biggest coffee chain, has unveiled a new logo by omiting its name and the word “coffee”, infuriating loyal customers and self-described Starbucks fanatics. Among hundreds of comments on Starbucks’ website, wanted the company’s name to be put back into the logo.

For example, one customer wrote: “I have been a big supporter of (Starbucks) since the early days, taken expensive rides in taxis to get my morning coffee, even waded through two feet of snow in my business suit … but I do not see the logic of your Business Development folks for the removal of the Starbucks name.”

However, this change, announced during a Webcast of a company meeting, comes as Starbucks is building new billion-dollar brands sold outside its cafes.

“Even though we have been, and always will be, a coffee company and retailer, it’s possible we’ll have other products with our name on it and no coffee in it,” Chief Executive Howard Schultz said on the Webcast.

Despite general disappointment expressed by U.S. consumers in response to the redesigned Starbucks logo, scientists believe the move could do good to the company as it will likely generate more brand loyalty among new customers in countries such as China, India, Taiwan and Singapore.

“The logo of a brand is much more than a pictorial representation of the brand. For consumers who are highly committed to the brand, the logo represents a visual conduit that enables a customer to identify with the brand,” said Rice University Professor of Marketing Vikas Mittal.

According to the studies conducted by Vikas Mittal and his team, highly committed consumers who have very high levels of brand attachment regard any changes to the brand conduit-the logo as a violation of the psychological contract between the brand and the consumer. Moreover, Mittal and his team discovered that the higher the consumer’s commitment to the brand, the more negative the consumer’s reaction to any changes in the logo design.

Executives said the logo, designed in-house, would appear first on paper products like cups and napkins in March. On the other hand, Starbucks declined to say how much it would cost to switch to the new logo.

We don’t know whether highly committed customers, who are also often the heaviest consumers of the brand, will calm down and feel again connected to the brand or not. The important point is that companies must carefully manage the process of refreshing their logos.

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