Starbucks continues the trend towards stripped-down brand identities
It’s been all over the web since yesterday: Starbucks announced an evolved brand identity - with everything removed apart from their “siren” symbol.
Created by Lippincott and Starbucks own in-house design team, this follows a growing trend towards minimal consumer brand identities: From Pepsi’s new look in 2009 - noteworthy for possibly the most ludicrous rationale ever - through to less successful attempts by Tropicana and Gap in 2010. Not forgetting two of the world’s most successful brands - Apple and Nike - who have long since dropped their name from brand identifiers.
The Starbucks news follows on nicely from a blog-post we spotted in December from the Antrepo agency - where they imagined how some well-known consumer brands could benefit from minimalist packaging design.
It all raises some interesting thoughts: First of all, Starbucks went about their change with more customer-sensitivity than either Tropicana or Gap: They’ve announced the change three months ahead of launch, and (most cleverly) they’re showing the new mark applied to their ubiquitous coffee cups, where it already looks at home.
But the key reason why we believe Starbucks can take this kind of bold approach is because of the broad brand-communication canvas they work with: Most consumers encounter the brand in the context of their coffee shops, where their warm, hyper-kinetic and multi-layered visual language can still run riot. This new brand identity is simply the identifier to punctuate a richly-expressed brand environment. It’s the badge in front of the car, rather than the car itself.
That’s why Tropicana didn’t work - and why a super-minimal Pringles pack wouldn’t sell either: Consumer brands have a tiny piece of on-shelf real estate to work with: They need to convey all the values and character of their brand in their packaging in order to create recognition, appeal - and to prompt a purchase.
Unless you have Pepsi’s advertising budget, Starbuck’s physical presence, or a target audience that values visual restraint, consumer brands will always need to strike a careful balance between complexity and simplicity.