PART ONE – “Learn from the past…and from Interstate Department Stores”
The servers at the Starbucks around the corner from my house make me feel at home. They know my name, where I live, even my favorite drink (a grande Americano). And, in return, I show them brand loyalty. I look for Starbucks whenever I’m on a trip, I hold out for a Starbucks when I’m driving (hoping to see their logo on one of those blue highway signs), I even take time to fill out Starbucks online surveys.
…and this is why their recent re-branding announcement scares the heck out of me.
It’s not just because of what they’re doing to their logo – that’s enough for a whole other blog post. No, it’s because of the direction they’re hinting at that sounds oh-so-familiar.
Quick history lesson – have you heard of “Interstate Department Stores”? Didn’t think so. That’s because, like so many of their kind, Interstate went the way of the department store dinosaur. Their brand was too broad, their offerings not specific enough. But Interstate did something different – they changed. After they declared bankruptcy, they decided to focus on one kind of product – children’s toys – and changed their name to “Toys R Us”. I bet you’ve heard of them. They adapted, specialized, and flourished.
Now back to Starbucks. In a short video on their website, Howard Schultz, CEO, explains that the “evolution” of their logo is supposed to do two things:
- Embrace and respect Starbucks’ heritage, and…
- Evolve Starbucks “to a point where we feel it’s more suitable for the future”
Uh oh, what does that mean?
Mr. Schultz then goes on to explain how the new logo gives Starbucks “the freedom and flexibility to think beyond coffee…”
And there it is. This isn’t just a logo redesign. Starbucks is expanding, diversifying, maybe readying to launch multiple extensions. Why do I think so? Because Mr. Schultz practically falls off his stool after he mentions “thinking beyond coffee”, hurriedly adding that Starbucks “always will be the world’s leading purveyor of the highest quality coffee.”
But now it’s out there. Starbucks is “thinking beyond coffee”.
Please, Starbucks, learn from Interstate Department Stores – stay specific. Specialize. Do one thing and do it well. Sure, there are tons of examples of successful brand extensions. But there are even more of companies extending themselves too far. Here’s my worry – if I start seeing Starbucks Delis and Starbucks House Wares – that store around the corner from my house could become a thing of the past.