Think of the world’s favourite brands and you can’t miss Starbucks, the American coffee giant – much loved for its style, ambience, conversations and of course, its coffee. Starbucks is one brand that has successfully transformed coffee from a product into an experience. Speak to anyone who loves Starbucks and they will vouch for a fact that Starbucks is more than just coffee.
As interesting are the stories that happen within a Starbucks café, so is the journey of the brand Starbucks itself.
The tale behind the brand name!
Starbucks was founded in 1971 by Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl, and Gordon Bowker. Interestingly, it started off not as a coffee shop but as a coffee bean business. So the trio were looking for a name that was unique and after much discussion and debates, they zeroed in on Starbucks, inspired by the character in Herman Melvile’s American Classic Moby-Dick. Initially, they had thought of the name Pequod, the Captain’s ship in the tale of Moby-Dick. But it just didn’t sound right to associate with drinking coffee.
That’s when Bowker suggested the name Starbuck, the Captain’s first mate. The name evoked the romance of the high sea and the seafaring traditions of early coffee traders. Starbuck was also the name of a well-known family of whalers in Nantucket.
The “Siren” of Starbucks logo
Did you know the iconic nautical Starbucks logo of today was actually inspired from Greek mythology?! According to Greek mythology, sirens were mysterious figures believed to lure sailors. Just as the coffee brand which aspires to lure coffee lovers from everywhere.
While browsing through old marine books, the founders stumbled upon an image of a strange twin tailed mermaid in 16th century Norse woodcut called “siren” and they loved it! They took inspiration from that and kind of tied it into what they felt Starbucks stood for, to create the logo design from there. The symbol of this Siren was intended to be as seductive as the coffee itself!
Since then, the Siren became an integral part of the brand and continues to be the essence of its identity. Today, the Siren is recognized worldwide as the symbol of the world’s finest coffee and urges people to connect, explore and share ahead.
Starbucks and its affair with the sea!
If you are wondering what the nautical connection in a coffee business is, Starbucks says there are two big connections between the seafaring world and its brand. One, the birth place of the brand is Seattle – a port city. So they feel a strong connection to the element of water. And two, their finest and most loved Coffee beans travels long distances across the water to reach them even today.
The Logo design – then and now
The Starbucks logo has changed over the years and what’s interesting to note is that how with just subtle changes the entire image has evolved. If there ever was a logo that has successfully shown the journey of the brand through its design, it has to be that of Starbucks. Starbucks has always used logo design change as a way of telling the world how its company is also changing and growing. Not many brands can carry off such a change successfully and yet have such a great brand recall in the minds of customers!
The first ever Starbucks logo was designed with the topless “siren” with a double fish tail and a fully visible navel. The logo was a circular design with the mermaid featured in the centre on a coffee brown palette. The logo showed the brand name as Starbucks Coffee. Tea. Spices.
In 1987 Howard Schultz acquired Starbucks and he added handcrafted espresso beverages to its café menu. So the name was also changed to “Starbucks Coffee” on the logo and he got the design cleaned up to make it sophisticated, with a corporate look and feel.
The name of the company was shown in wordmark with 2 stars inside a circle. The image of the bare bodied siren was also tweaked to make it more modern with flowing hair and a visible navel. And the brown palette of logo was changed to green to represent the growth, freshness and prosperity of Starbucks brand. The color green was used to now associate Starbucks with more food and freshness as the company expanded to more food products.
The third version of the Starbucks logo became much more clean and simple with a zoomed in view of the now iconic Siren as the brand became a publicly traded company. The navel of the mermaid disappeared from the design and only the tail was retained. The logo color of green and white remained consistent.
On the 40th Anniversary of the Company, Starbucks unveiled its latest simplified logo and perhaps, its smartest version! The bold move of doing away with the company name in the logo reflects the brand’s confidence and strength without coming across as arrogant. The focus was now fully shifted to the Siren – an icon still as alluring, yet so widely recognized today. The external circle/ring in the design was done away with, indicating how as a brand they are limitless and flexible and not restricted to coffee.
Overall, the logo design had now become clean and sleek, with the siren’s face and hair made little more modern without actually changing her. The green white color scheme had been retained, showing Starbucks as an evergreen brand.
So where does she go from here?!
Since the logo design revamp in 2011, the Siren has also made an appearance beyond coffee cups – on Special edition Starbucks gift cards. It will certainly be interesting to see how in the coming years the Siren will evolve. Will she become more contemporary or will she retain some of this mysterious aura? Starbucks has already made it clear that their vision now goes beyond coffee. So with this changing face of the brand, will the 45 year old icon continue to be a part of what the Company stands for? We will have to wait and watch! Till then we have their freshly brewed coffee, inviting ambience and ever friendly baristas to enjoy!