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Start-ups can learn from Starbucks’ logo woes

Friday, 7 January 2011 | By Michelle Hammond

The consumer backlash sparked by the decision of global coffee chain Starbucks to change its logo had led branding experts to warn that it’s crucial for companies to get their logos right from the start.

 

Starbucks has removed the company name and the word ‘coffee’ from its logo, with only the image of a mythical character remaining.

 

Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz explained the change as part of Starbucks strategy to expand beyond its core product.

 

“Even though we have been, and always will be, a coffee company and retailer, it’s possible we'll have other products with our name on it and no coffee in it,” he said in a statement.

 

But branding experts are critical of the logo change, likening it to the ill-fated attempt by US clothing chain Gap to change its well-known logo in late 2010. A social media backlash eventually forced Gap to revert to its original logo.

 

Erminio Putignano, managing director of FutureBrand Australia, says companies need to consider their business culture when creating a logo to avoid having to change it later.

 

“More and more, brand management is about the culture. [It’s about] the people behind the start-up and the staff,” he says.

 

Putigano provides some key tips for creating an appropriate company logo:

  • Look at the logos of other businesses in your industry. Do your competitors use solid, conservative images, or elaborate graphics and fonts? Think about how you want to differentiate your logo from those of your competition.
  • Focus on your message. Decide what you want to communicate about your company. Do you want to appear serious or lighthearted? Who’s your target audience?
  • Make it clean and functional. Your logo should work as well on a business card as on the side of a truck. A good logo should be scalable, easy to reproduce, memorable and distinctive.
  • Icons are better than photographs, which may be indecipherable if enlarged or reduced significantly. Also, create a logo that can be reproduced in black and white so that it can be faxed, photocopied or used in a black-and-white advertisement.
  • Your business name will affect your logo design. Where appropriate, incorporate more information about the business with the use of a certain image or font.
  • Use your logo to illustrate your business’s key benefit. The best logos make an immediate statement with a picture or illustration, not words.
  • Avoid on-trend looks which may date quickly.
  • If you don’t feel confident designing a logo yourself, hire someone to do it for you but be very clear about what you want and be actively involved in the design process.