Photos: Ray Ally
In January Starbucks announced it was changing its identity to mark its 40th anniversary. It was dropping the words “Starbucks Coffee” from its logo to reflect the future direction of the brand. The new storefronts were unveiled last week at only four locations around the world. Beijing was one of them along with London, New York and Paris.
At the weekend I took a trip to the Chaoyang Park area of the city to see this new store fascia. It’s located at Solana, a lifestyle shopping centre, which has been designed like an outdoor Californian mall. The selection of a Beijing site is obviously a political choice and highlights the importance of China to the brands growth. It currently has around 400 stores but intends to exceed 1,000 in the near future.
The Starbucks at Solana is an odd shaped building and not necessarily the best example of a typical store. Disappointingly nothing had changed in the storefront design. Except that a new green and white Siren logo had been put up. At first glance I doubt if many people will even notice the difference.
However, what customers will notice is the new green cardboard cup sleeves. This has changed from the previous brown colour and features an enlarged image of the Sirens face. The paper cups also have the new logo, which does look simpler and cleaner.
While the design is not ground-breaking the most important impact is the strategy to remove the words from the logo. This makes it easier for the brand to expand into other areas without the hindrance of the word coffee. Starbucks Tea, Starbucks Water even possibly Starbucks Ice Cream becomes simpler to communicate. It also allows for the flexibility to create sub brands in the future which may or may not use the Starbucks name.
Other famous food and beverage brands have faced similar issues. Especially when their original name hinders growth and opportunity. McDonald’s dropped the word hamburgers from it’s name as its product range evolved into other areas.
A more drastic change was undertaken by Kentucky Fried Chicken when it rebranded using the acronym KFC. Primarily as the word fried had unhealthy associations with the food. These changes made it easier for the brands to expand globally and enter new markets with products outside their original offerings.
The new Starbucks logo may be smarter, but it really is branding design 101. In 25 years I have never yet met a client who at one point didn’t say “make my logo bigger”. While its still early to judge what the brand will do, it will face increasing competition on the mainland from Costa Coffee and Pacific Coffee.
Design will play an important part in differentiating the Starbucks brand experience in China through it products, packaging and environments. So lets hope Starbucks has more exciting plans for its store designs in the future than just a bigger logo.