How Starbucks is using a special brown logo to evoke the chain's beginnings and restore some goodwill for the brand

By David Kiley

April 14, Business Week

Brown is certainly a color that communicates coffee. So, when you order a cup of the new Pike Place coffee at Starbucks (SBUX) this week, it doesn't seem out of place to see a special brown logo on the cup and paper sleeve. Except that, as everyone knows, Starbucks' iconic logo is green. So why change such a successful corporate symbol?

The image of the twin-tailed mermaid inside the brown medallion harkens back to the chain's 1971 beginnings. The logo has evolved over the years, going from brown to green in 1987. This is the second time in three years Starbucks has trotted out the brown mermaid, inspired by a Norse woodcut. Back in 2006, she was resurrected to mark the chain's 35th anniversary. This time, she is a messenger for Chairman Howard Schultz, who is trying to restore some of the goodwill and warm feelings for the brand that have gone by the wayside because of increasing coffee prices, machine-made lattes, and bad press.

Starbucks plans to use the logo on all its cups for about eight weeks. It will remain in ads and as the logo for Pike Place bags of coffee. The new blend, which will be available in every store, has been crafted for a smoother, cleaner finish than many of the rotating blends Starbucks has traditionally carried week to week. This was done to combat the chief criticism of the company's coffee by reviewers, including Consumer Reports, that it tastes "burned."

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photo: The new old logo: Starbucks is temporarily using a sanitized version of its original branding on new packaging (Business Week)