Starbucks: What’s next?

Starbucks removed the name and the word coffee from its identity not only to recreate the new logo, but because they are about to expand the category or move into a new category. Such acts by corporate management indicate only the additional products that we will witness beside the coffee. The question is what would it be? TEA? Considering the Starbucks example, there is a difference between the case studies of: McDonald’s, Nike and Starbucks

  • Remember one thing that McDonald’s removed the name and added the tagline, “I’m lovin’ it” which drove from their new positioning. This made McDonald’s the Emotionally attributed Brand over the second runner up in the burger joint category which is Burger King (which is the Functional Brand)
  • In the case of Nike, by removing the name and adding there tagline “Go Free” as part of their new positioning, it drove the Brand into the world of limitlessness and become more Humanist. Nike’s tagline was another strong emotionally driven tagline while Adidas, the direct competitor, stayed on as the Functional Brand. If Nike kept “Just Do It” and removed the name Nike, it will only keep the Brand Functional and not Emotional (in direct competition with Adidas)

Starbucks is an Emotionally-driven Brand and without the tagline imposing on the visual logo, it will only stipulate that it’s superior to the consumers’ experience. The whole Starbucks franchise came to life to offer the Italian coffee experience. Again, we see the Emotional Brand over the Functional Brand, which is the essence of the coffee experience in America: Coffee and Cream.  This puts it in direct competition with:

  • McDonald’s coffee
  • the corporate office building’s coffee services
  • $3 coffee
  • coffee from the pot
  • Dunkin’ Donuts

The prevalent question would be: Is Starbucks planning to move out of the category, rather than stay in and focused?

I predict Starbucks is moving outside of the category or expanding the category, which to me builds up to the most unprecedented SHOCK OF THE CENTURY in Brand/Branding history. A Brand with such magnitude in perception is shifting to move its Brand shape and environment from the coffee culture and experience to ‘Coffee + Tea + Whatever’s in the cup’. The paradox is (which few of us know) that the Brand Positioning “Is third place from home”. If Starbucks added a tagline for their new positioning it would at least give a direction to the new Brand Positioning and experience, in which I agree IF it’s within the category and disagree IF Starbucks is moving outside the category

Starbucks’ major challenge for coffee has been and will be the Far East and South East Asia where the Brand faced resistance from the average Far Eastern consumer who is attached to the Tea culture whereas Globally, it faced resistance from the health conscious audience who are massively on the rise. This leads to a serious question:

Did Starbucks management decide to revisit its strategy and change its external Corporate strategy that led to this new Identity?

I don’t know if Starbucks can sustain itself by flooding the new identity into the minds of the current generation and by changing the longstanding perception of Starbucks as ‘Coffee and for Coffee’ in the past three decades. This extreme shuffle would unquestionably drive the Brand to lose its current Brand Essence and Nature. The Human nature is as strong as Brand nature and both are dictated by senses as to which we are associated with as well as to what our minds accept

In the cases mentioned above, Nike remains in the Sports products category and McDonald’s is in the Burger category. Both re-positioned their brands from being Functional to Emotional, while their competitors remained Functional. I truly believe the issue here, is much more than identity. It’s about the Brand changing its nature.  Starbucks is moving into a new category or expanding the current category while maintaining Coffee as a word in the minds of the audience. The name will always remain throughout the platforms of communication, but removing a name from an identity that is associated with coffee and the word coffee itself, can only instruct the extreme change we are about to witness from the brand that was once known to be the ‘Coffee Spiritual Leader’

Said Baaghil is the ‘Unconventional’ Branding and Marketing Adviser to reputable companies in the Middle East, author of many reputable books including the ‘The Power of Belonging’ and a Speaker. Baaghil appeared in books published by America’s experts on Branding and Marketing such as Dan Hill and Libby Gill. Most recently Baaghil was interviewed by world renown Branding Consultancy firm Siegel+Gale on Branding in the Middle East

He can be reached on


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