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Wake up and smell the marketing

2011 January 6
by Paul Vallely

You might think the logo on the side of the cup doesn’t much matter; it’s the quality of the coffee that counts.  But you would be wrong. Wake up and smell the marketing.

If branding wasn’t important why would the coffee giant Starbucks be ‘refreshing’ its logo in a move which has caused consternation among its customers. Yesterday it announced that it is to drop the words Starbucks and Coffee from its logo – leaving only the image of the bare-breasted mermaid it calls The Siren. Immediately feedback on its website immediately became over-stimulated in a way which you can’t just put down to too much caffeine.

When you are spending spend £2 on a latte, drinkers fulminated, you at least want people to know where you got it from.  People are buying much more than a drink. We give a great experience, as the head of Starbucks once put it. If you are selling a brand, as much as a product, you need to keep up with a market that thrives on constant novelty.

The plan is to broaden the focus of the business to sell other products – or as their business jargon puts it, they want “the freedom and flexibility to think beyond coffee”. But there may be hubris in Starbucks imagining that it is now established enough to survive with a wordless logo like Apple or Nike. Its share price fell on the news. The Siren, they should recall, was a mythical creature who lured the sailors of ancient Greeks to their deaths.

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