Out with the Old…
In with the New.
Seattle’s Best Coffee, a Starbucks subsidiary, recently introduced a new logo, coinciding with their announcement a huge distribution push. By fall of this year, you can expect to find Seattle’s Best Coffee in approximately 30,000 fast food outlets, grocery stores and coffee shops nationwide, in addition to the 500 Borders bookstores and 2,500 stores where consumers can already find the brand. Starbucks’ ultimate goal is to sell the Seattle’s Best brand in mobile locations (push carts, trucks, etc.), convenience stores, drive-thru kiosks and vending machines. This push to sell more coffee comes in response to the introduction and success of other specialty coffees by companies like McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts, who offer tasty, competitively priced products. Starbucks is questioning how to use the Seattle’s Best brand to compete more effectively without causing damage to Starbucks image.
“Associating Starbucks with a product sold from vending machines could damage the brand’s upscale image. And it could cannibalize Starbucks customers” (Kevin Helliker, The Wall Street Journal).
The new logo is accompanied by a new motto: “Great Coffee Anywhere” – but does this new logo really speak for the brand? The only message it seems to communicate is that if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to a cup of Starbucks, then this is it. Considering Starbucks is essentially to branding Seattle’s Best as great coffee (just not as great as Starbucks) that’s available anywhere, should they have treated this rebrand with a little more care? Sure, the preexisting logo may have needed some work, but this new one seems completely devoid of any character whatsoever.
“They have achieved the popular generic look of contemporary consumer products, making no difference whether this company sold coffee or house cleaning products.” (Armin Vit, Brand New)
At the very least, the preexisting logo made some attempt at establishing an air of quality, history and trust in the brand in part by using a vintage label design. The colors were also attractive and appealing. The overall look of the logo contributed to an idea of what you could expect out a cup of their coffee. This new logo seems to be a shift in a completely different direction. Aside from containing some simplified elements of a coffee cup, it contributes nothing to what the brand has already established. The type is unobtrusive, friendly and that’s about all it is.
“The new look is a composite of visual clichés–a simple, reductive “sign,” a neutral void that is open to wide interpretation. I don’t think it is intended to make you feel anything.” (Ken Carbone, Fast Company)
In the end, the generic look of this logo is what might appeal to droves of folks like you and me who are simply out looking for a good cup of coffee: nothing more, nothing less – but is it the right approach to branding coffee that’s supposed to be great?