Starbucks brews a year of activity


Starbucks officially revealed its new global brand identity this week setting off a year-long programme of events and launches as part of the coffee chain’s 40th anniversary celebrations.

In the 40 years since it opened its first store in Seattle, Starbucks has swelled to 17,000 stores in 55 countries.

It serves 60 million customers a week worldwide, 2 million of those in the UK.

It’s a hefty retail operation, and is a brand that is loved by many. It’s also one that tries to be all things to all people.

Offering something for everyone is not an easy strategy for a brand to pull off and often ends with a brand overstretching and finding that it means nothing to anyone.

When Howard Schultz took the helm three years ago, he kicked off a transformation.

This week’s roll out of a new brand logo across stores, the overhaul of store designs, and the launch of a new website are just part of that transformation.

Messing around with a brand consumers hold dear is a risky business, as Gap demonstrated, but that lack of fall out from Starbucks brand refresh has shown that it is possible to usher in change on a global scale without alienating customers.

The thought behind the new Starbucks logo which drops the corporate wording leaving only the Siren figure is that it gives the brand more space to diversify into other retail categories.

Starbucks remains tight-lipped about what areas it will diversify into but I am told there will be some big announcements from the brand in the coming year as part of its 40th anniversary celebration.

Its rival Costa Coffee, which is currently running an aggressive anti-Starbucks campaign, has just acquired Coffee Nation and announced that it is moving into the self-service coffee market under the Coffee Express.

A similar move into the self-service coffee market isn’t on Starbucks’ radar and it is focusing on elevating the experience in its coffee houses.

When I met Brian Waring the vice-president of marketing and category at Starbucks UK & Ireland at the opening of its first UK store with the new branding, he talked me through the chain’s strategy to innovate at every end of the spectrum from quick caffeine fixes to leisurely afternoons and at home instant coffee to rare bean blends.

Part of its innovation programme is to play around with the types of stores it opens and in which locations.

Whether it is larger luxurious coffee houses that encourage patrons to spend a few hours, or “speed stores” like its recently opened Covent Garden site which has only bench seating and caters for customers that just want to grab their coffee and go.

So, while being all things to all people can often be a signal that a business doesn’t have a clear view of its strategy, I think in Starbucks’ case it says quite the opposite.