Starbucks Unveils New Wordless Logo

(Stabucks new logo report updated with background on the company's non-coffee offerings.)
SEATTLE (TheStreet) -- Starbucks (SBUX) unveiled a new logo Wednesday.

In a video posted on the Starbucks Web site, CEO Howard Schultz talked about the symmetry of updating its emblematic logo on the 40th anniversary of the company in March.

Starbucks' revised, streamlined logo removes the outer green circle that bares the Starbucks Coffee name, enlarging the inner siren, sometimes referred to as a sea nymph, in the company's signature green hue.

Schultz said "this new evolution of the logo does two things that are very important. It embraces and respects our heritage and at the same time evolves us to a point where we feel it's more suitable to the future."

The CEO pointed out that the original Starbucks logo was brown, but was changed to green in 1987. It has gone through two other small changes since then. But now "the world has changed and Starbucks has changed," he said.

"The new interpretation of the logo at its core is the exact same essence of the Starbucks experience. And that is the love we have for our coffee, the relationship we have with our partners and the connection we build with our customers. What I think we've done is we've allowed her to come out of the circle in a way that I think gives us the freedom and flexibility to think beyond coffee. But make no mistake. We have been, we will continue to be, and we always will be the world's leading purveyor of the highest quality coffee."

One way Starbucks has been expanding beyond coffee is through its Via Ready Brew product line, instant coffee served in preportioned single-serve packets. Via was introduced last year to a surprisingly warm reception from customers. Earlier this week Starbucks rolled out a new variety of Via, a French Roast blend, now available at all Starbucks stores in the U.S. and Canada.

The coffee shop chain also offers customers artisan breakfast sandwiches, such as veggie, egg and Monterey jack cheese, and bacon, egg and gouda, along with other food items such as cookies, pastries and other snack foods.

For years it has sold coffee paraphernalia such as coffee mugs, tumblers and hot drink holders, as well as CD compilations of music played in its stores.

Starbucks said its brand is so ubiquitous it no longer needs to display its name around the logo in order for customers to recognize it. A logo without words also reflects Starbucks' expansion plans in China and other international markets, it said.

The new logo is expected to be rolled out in stores in March.

Investors seemed unfazed by the news, so far. Starbucks shares edged 0.4% lower to close at $32.35 on Wednesday amid light trading. On Thursday morning shares picked up 0.5% in premarket activity.

Not all corporate redesigns have come about so smoothly.

Just a week after a clandestine unveiling of a new logo on its Web site, Gap ( GPS) announced in October it was backing off its new design.

The Gap's old logo is at left; the logo it adopted and abandoned in the face of massive scorn is at right.

"Ultimately, we've learned just how much energy there is around our brand. All roads were leading us back to the blue box, so we've made the decision not to use the new logo on any further," said Marka Hansen, the president of Gap Brand North America, in a statement posted on the company's Web site.  

The decision on the new logo was one of TheStreet's 5 Dumbest Things on Wall Street, drawing investor and customer ire.

Within a day, the design community had pounced, with vitriol and mockery exploding on blogs and on Twitter. As Bobby Solomon on art and design blog put it, "This is some shabby work.... There was a lot of brand equity in that big blue square and they didn't move far away enough from the source for this logo to even begin to feel new or exciting."

Then, with the backlash building, Gap backtracked. The company took to its Facebook page and Twitter and declared that it was "thrilled to see passionate debates about the logo unfolding! ... So much so, we're asking you to share your designs. We love our version, but we'd like to see other ideas."

PepsiCo ( PEP) had a similar blunder when it redesigned the packaging of its Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice cartons. The lackluster redesign elicited private-label or generic supermarket-brand juice containers, not the iconic and well-loved Tropicana most consumers knew and loved.

In February of 2009 Pepsi executives admitted defeat and said it would bring back the look consumers really wanted -- the classic orange with a red-and-white-striped straw poking out.

Pepsi's SunChips brand even had to abandon its progressive, fully compostable bag, released last year, because consumers complained the bags were too noisy.

Clorox ( CLX) unveiled its new logo in 2010 in what it called "the most dramatic change in its visual identity since 1957."

"Using an updated version of the company's iconic diamond mark, a brighter blue color and new accents of green, the logo better reflects the corporate brand today as it heads toward its centennial anniversary in 2013," the company said in a statement.

Customers seemed not to care too much though the bleach maker did forecast fiscal second quarter earnings below Wall Street's expectations, blaming sluggish demand.

-- Written by Miriam Marcus Reimer in New York.

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