Has Starbucks Lost Its Soul? (Again?)

Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX  ) CEO Howard Schultz caused a ruckus when he talked in 2007 about the possibility that the coffee giant was "losing its soul." Now, thanks to the new logo heralding the company's 40th anniversary, it's definitely lost something else: the word "coffee." And "Starbucks," for that matter.

The new logo consists of a larger graphic of Starbucks' ubiquitous mermaid -- and, well, that's about it. No text, no name, just the mermaid. The Wall Street Journal reported that the new logo represents the company's newfound emphasis on becoming a consumer packaged-goods company, as well as the idea that Starbucks might have other products that don't have coffee in them at all.

Starbucks' ventures into more widespread retail channels, such as grocery stores, drug stores, discounters, and other venues aren't new. Nor is the idea that folks can get non-coffee items under the Starbucks brand. But fiddling with a venerable logo can sometimes leave unwary companies badly scalded. Last October, Gap (NYSE: GPS  ) briefly changed its own tried-and-true logo to a widely mocked and quickly discarded new version, in what many observers still regard as a massive gaffe.

Gap lands at No. 84 on Interbrands' Top 100 brands list, which ranks the major brand behemoths such as Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO  ) , IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) , and Microsoft. (Starbucks comes in at No. 97.) Take a gander at the logos on that list, and I'll bet you'll recognize almost all of them. That's the whole point; these companies and their logos are practically burned into consumers' brains.

Maybe Starbucks' new logo is no big deal. Maybe consumers will find it jarring. We'll see. It wouldn't be the first occasion that prompted folks to wonder whether Starbucks had lost its soul. One of these days, alas, they might be right.

Do you like Starbucks' new logo, or do you think it's a dreadful mistake? Gab about logos and their changes in the comments box below.

Coca-Cola and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Starbucks is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Coca-Cola is a Motley Fool Income Investor pick. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Coca-Cola, International Business Machines, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Alyce Lomax owns shares of Starbucks. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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