Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Secret Revealed!

Well, I went into a Starbucks, today. It was as I discovered yesterday, a handout of a coffee samples. At first blush, this doesn't seem like a big deal, but I think it kind of is. While they're marketing the Pike Place Roast as their new daily roast, what really makes this important is the return to freshly scooped and ground coffee on premises. It also is the nationwide introduction of cheaper drinks, undoubtedly in response the tailspin (ooh we oh!) of the economy.

All the changes are, obviously, the Pike Place roast, cheaper drinks like cafe misto, on-site scooping and grinding, and, strangely, the old logo on cups. Like, the very old logo. Obviously, they're really trying to drive home the return to tradition, but the logo betrays reality. They're not entirely about a return, perhaps because that is impossible.

Only marketing and Starbucks geeks knew about the old logo, and they also know that the Starbucks which had that logo has very little to do with the Starbucks of today. Today's 'Bucks is the baby of Howard Shultz, through and through. The original owners, who actually started Starbucks in '71, sold the place to Schultz in 1987. Before then, they sold beans, spices, and other weird, hippy stuff... and NO espresso!. While it's cute to go back to the pre-Starbucks Starbucks, at it's heart, it makes little sense.

I mentioned that the logo betrays a deeper reality, that the past is the past and there's no going back. Aside from the change in wording, of course necessitated by Starbucks not actually selling spices, notice that the siren is no longer bare-breasted. I consider this the most important revelation of the day. Scooping coffee? Cheaper drinks? Those are all obvious business decisions that any first year marketing student could come up with. But insight into the very functioning of the company, that's rare. This tiny detail.

A cowardly decision, in my mind. If you don't have the balls to go all the way, don't pretend like you do. I fully understand why they did it, but I still disagree. I would have gone whole-hog. Moreoever, this doesn't bode well. Real change means rocking the boat, if they're too scared of rocking the boat to simply show two, little dots to affirm their dedication to tradition, how the hell can we expect them to have the balls to really rock the boat and effect change.

How the Starbucks Siren Became Less Naughty (Deadprogrammer.com)
The Evolution of the Starbucks Logo (Brand Autopsy)

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