Does Your Logo Equal Your Brand?

January 11th, 2011 by Rob Berman Leave a reply »

Inversionphoto © 2008 David Goehring | more info (via: Wylio)Starbucks has just introduced a new logo. They are trying to expand their branding to consumer packaged goods instead of just coffee. The words “Starbucks Coffee” have been removed, the mermaid image enlarged and the background color is brighter.

As I was thinking about the logo change, I recalled a recent post from Dennis Salvatier  an excellent graphic artist, illustrator and blogger.  His blog, The Tanoshiboy Chronicles recently talked about logos. The post was called 5 Steps to the Birth of a Logo. In it he laid out some definitions and examples to consider.

Logo: Identifies a business in its simplest form via the use of a mark or icon.
Think of the Nike swoosh, McDonald’s golden arches or the Apple icon.

Identity: The visual aspects that form part of the overall brand.
Examples would be your business card, letterhead, envelope and, of course, your website.

Brand: The perceived emotional corporate image as a whole.
Think about what Apple has instilled in its consumers through their marketing and advertising efforts and that will give you a clue as to how consumers can have an emotional tie with a brand. Those long lines for the iPhone 4 aren’t for nothing.”

Keeper of the Flame

Howard Schultz, the keeper of the Starbucks image, architect of its huge growth and its CEO recently told the Wall Street Journal, “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.”

Logo Success or Failure?

The current movement to allow the logo to represent more than what it is does not always work out as well as certain companies intended. Two examples:

Gap, Inc. recently unveiled a new logo to scathing feedback.  One week later they reverted back to the prior logo.

Tropicana Orange Juice maker Pepsico altered the packaging and especially its logo in early 2009. Again, the feedback was loud and strong. The feedback effectively forced Pepsico to revert back to Tropicana’s prior logo as well.

The Takeaway

Being the keeper of the company’s logo, identity and brand is like being responsible for the soul of the company.  Product Managers and company owners should think two or three or four times before making changes that can have a negative reception in the marketplace.

That is it from logo central.   Back to you.  Please comment below.

1.      What is your reaction to the new Starbucks logo?

2.      Can the new logo really can stretch the definition of what the public thinks about Starbucks?

3.      What are your experiences with changing a logo, identity or brand?

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  1. Joeyboy says:

    I like the old logo than this one, they should bring it back. 🙂

  2. Peter George says:

    Rob, I love when this question comes up. I was very eager to post something pithy, and then I read Richard Smith’s comments. He nailed it. Conversely, it has always irked me when someone tells another that they will brand them with a new logo or ad specialty products. One simply cannot put a promise, emotions, a corporate personality, or customer experiences on a water bottle.

    • Rob Berman says:


      Thanks for stopping by. Rick had some great points. I love the water bottle analogy. A brand is a living breathing thing that must be nurtured and cared for or it will suffer.


  3. The logo is a companies “Identity” it is a distinguishable graphic element. Where as the “Brand” is an emotional response to ones / company. The brand is connected to personal / corporate values, Quality of product and service, culture and personality.

    Just because the cow has a OK Ranch (excuse the term but this may be what has caused the confusion) brand on it’s hind quarter, does not mean it will fetch a high price at auction. Is the OK Ranch know for having high quality cattle? Do they have a reputation of providing fair dealing? The answers to those question will add or subtract the quality of the brand.

    So, no your logo does not equal your brand. Your logo is a visual cue or beacon guiding the patron or client to or from their expectations.

    As for StarBucks move towards a glyph without wordmark… The brand is so strong, known, trusted and expectation set they do not need the wordmark. They have the same luxury as apple, Mcdonalds and the like.

    PS. Mermaid… Horse… Star or a pig with lipstick the image is arbitrary and non literal. I’m just glad it’s not an image of steaming hot coffee. Oh wait that reminds me…

  4. Tony says:

    Hi Rob,

    I think they should drop coffee, but keep Starbucks. The image alone is not strong enough to identify with them as Starbucks.

    • Rob Berman says:


      Thanks for stopping by. I totally agree with you. It could end up as a pretty expensive mistake for Starbucks. Only time will tell.


    • Faraz says:

      Agreed. I can’t see the logo as recognisable enough for most people to identify the company from the logo alone. Not in the UK anyway.

      • Rob Berman says:


        Do we really need or want the same logo everywhere. I have traveled to most parts of the world. It is nice to see the McDonald’s logo everywhere. But am I really going to eat there versus a great local restaurant?


  5. Chris McNamara says:

    Thought provoking, I believe that once a logo has been created and released it can inspire loyalty and therefore any change can be seen as disrespectful to those who have placed there loyalty in the brand and the logo. By the same token a new product or business can make almost any logo work for them, is the Nike swoosh really that amazing.

    • Rob Berman says:


      Everyone cites the Nike logo as being the example of how these logos can morph. Not too many others one that people mention. Maybe the exception does not prove the rule here. Slower evolution of logos like Google’s are hardly noticed. If you look at them years apart you can see the actual changes.

      Thanks for stopping by,


    • I think we need to take a holistic look at the SB Identity. The logo is just one small part of a very robust graphically involved identity. I don’t think SB can be lumped into the same pile visually as other organizations. SB is well know for drastically changing their image as it relates to package design. They have run the gamut on visuals weather to keep up or ahead of basic design trends or to give a new take on a seasonal tribute. I bet they have a multitude of design guides. I think being this flexible with their visual identity allows them latitude with every graphic element. It is actually expected at this point. Another case in point. Check out the Warner Bros. logo, compare the matrix intro to batman, inception and so on.

      • Rob Berman says:


        Your taking a broader view than just the logo. The whole brand identity versus a piece of it. The whole hullabloo seems to have calmed down.


  6. A logo of a mermaid with a fish in the background? Is Starbucks opening up seafood restaurants now? I usually hate it when a company that I’m loyal to changes their brand. Sometimes, it makes sense but never having been a Starbucks customer, not only does this logo not look familiar at all, it does make me think of restaurants, fish markets and aquariums.

    • Rob Berman says:


      Certainly does not make you think of coffee. I get that they want to extend the brand. So take the word coffee off of there. The rest is not clear to me.


  7. Catherine Lockey says:

    I didn’t even know who the logo belonged to until I read your story Rob which means their new logo doesn’t remind me of anything. On an aside, I don’t think consumers “force” companies to change their logos, I believe smart companies listen to their consumers and choose to change their logos. This, to me, is a sign the company is a good listener.

  8. Eliza says:

    Interestingly, this branding and logo change is not just confined to the corporate world. I work for a Federal agency. In the 12 years that I have been there, we have undergone 3 name changes resulting in 3 new rounds of logos and branding changes.

    Each time this happens, it costs the taxpayers tons of dollars in changing everything from websites to print communications. And you know what the public calls us by? The name that existed when I started 12 years ago.

    As a matter of fact, when I tell people where I work, using what should be a ‘branded’ acronym, they just look at me blankly. I then expand the acronym to the official name and they still look at me blankly. I end up sighing and using the ancient name, then their faces light up in recognition.

    All this to say, private or public industry, re-branding needs to be very carefully considered.

    P.S. I’m a Bridgehead gal myself, not Starbucks. Not sure how far reaching that franchise is, but I can spot the Bridgehead logo as I’m walking down the street with coffee in mind. I’d be a tad annoyed if they switched it up on me 🙂

    • Rob Berman says:


      It was good to “meet” you on the discussion group about Guest Bloggers. Glad you jumped in to comment. I have heard similar stories about the Federal Government. I wonder if it is the same area or a different one.

      No Bridgehead here in CT. I do prefer Dunkin Donuts to Starbucks as do a lot of folks out this way.


  9. Torrey McGraw says:

    Shultz mentioned going with something closer the the original logo. Seems as if that’s a trend with companies. Going vintage.

    • Rob Berman says:


      Thanks for stopping by. I think that logos do follow a trend. Many seem to be moving to cleaner looks and in some cases going vintage.


  10. Can’t help thinking of when I was director of corporate communications for a huge conglomerate in Saudi Arabia. Asked an advertising company to make a dummy proposing a layout for a broshure. Briefed them on content and other important details.

    Imagine my surprise when they had made a new logo!! No image, just set the name with the same font as The Guardian newspaper. Agree with them completely that the conglomerate had an ugly logo, but you can’t just change logos like that. No need to mention that the rest of the layout was terrible, is there?

    • Rob Berman says:


      No need to mention the rest of the layout. New logo but not getting the rest of the assignment correctly. What were they thinking?


  11. Susan Oakes says:

    Hi Rob,

    I do wonder if they did any research before making the change as I read somewhere they will need to change all signage as well which is pretty costly.

    I also wonder why they did not leave Starbucks name. Changing your branding is a big step and usually if it is done it is completed in stages to migrate to the new branding.

    The other point is that I think they and others are wrong in how they promoted the change as people who have no connection or understanding have influenced their followers.

    Sorry for long comment, but the final point is if you need to explain the change then that is a worry.

    • Rob Berman says:


      Your last sentence nails it, “if you need to explain the change then that is a worry.” I am with you about the signage. That is millions and millions of dollars. Everything needs to change including cups, napkins, advertising etc. Sure hope they are correct.


  12. Rob, thanks for the mention. I’m happy I was able to help. Great post though. I think Starbucks did the right thing by dropping the title. Their brand is so recognized that it doesn’t need it. A 6 year old can tell you what the brand is. And this decision leaves them open to use the brand towards projects not related to coffee. I think they’ll do well.

    • Rob Berman says:


      You are most welcome. As soon as I saw that post from you I saved it. I new I would use it in a future post. The logo change definitely allows them room to move beyond coffee.


  13. I am not sure I like their new logo. If it ain’t broke – don’t fix it. I guess I agree with Keyuri. We are used to Starbucks other logo – will take some time getting used to this one. Will be interesting to see how others react.

    • Rob Berman says:


      Lots of discussion on Twitter and blogs about the new logo. Lots of folks do not like it. I doubt they will reverse their decision like GAP and Tropicana did. The CEO for Starbucks is an independent guy with a vision of where he wants to go.


  14. I wrote a blog about The Gap changing its logo and that debacle. As I’ve often said, the reason why companies change their logos is because someone in the company (or their agency) gets bored with it. “Shouldn’t we be doing something new?” They don’t realize how attached their customer’s are to the brand identity they already have. Companies, beware!

    • Rob Berman says:


      That “boredom” factor or the “I’m the new sheriff approach” has gotten lots of companies into trouble. I think that Google has the better approach than GAP or Tropicana. Their logo has undergone very small changes over time that you may not notice each one. If you did look at the first and last you would see a big change.


  15. Radu Tyrsina says:

    Let’s face it : Nike, Adidas or Puma will never change their logo 😉

    • Rob Berman says:


      Thanks for reading. I believe you are correct. They do not rely upon words. They have so much brand equity built up in these brands that change probably does not make sense.


  16. Regarding logos, I believe that familiarity breeds content. The exception to this is when a brand goes “bad”. Value Jet rebranded to Airtran? after the Everglades crash. I don’t mind if a logo is tweaked to enhance new products but an outright change without necessity only confuses me. Fortunately, my logo is new enough where I don’t have to entertain the tweaks!

    • Rob Berman says:


      Value Jet is a total rebranding from top to bottom. In essence they simply assumed another companies brand, logo, customer experiences etc. I like your logo. No need to tweak it.



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