A cup of coffee with the new Starbucks logo

Twin-tailed mermaid? Tall mocha latte. It’s pretty much a knee-jerk reaction, at least in the world of Starbucks’ marketing department.

On Jan. 5, the company began the soft launch of its re-branding, unveiling the new highly stylized yet simplistic logo that will be making its way onto coffee cups, packaging and retail signs this spring. The most obvious change is the loss of text: Starbucks’ logo now lacks any mention of coffee, their main product, or of Starbucks itself. Obvious textual messages abandoned, we are left with the mermaid looking quite modern and all done up in the familiar green and white.

In a blog post on the company’s website, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz described the change as a “small but meaningful update.” Based on the 812 comments left in response to Schultz’s post, Starbucks customers don’t see the change as small. Moreover, they aren’t sure they like what it means.

One customer notes, “I never really looked at the mermaid. I love the name and word ‘Starbucks.’ It makes me wonder what are they planning on doing if they no longer want the name Starbucks or ‘coffee’ on their logo?”

This, of course, is the point. The ambiguity of the new logo leaves Starbucks with the opportunity to actively pursue avenues other than coffee — and the company already is. Last October, Starbucks began selling beer, wine and cheese at one of its Seattle locations.

Starbucks sees the merit in its mermaid, but will others? The acceptance and success of the new logo hinges upon the masses understanding a few key points, the first being that the mermaid is not a mermaid, she’s “the siren” according to company jargon. The second is that in being a siren, she’s meant to tempt you and draw you in. Unless Schultz can find a way to communicate this to his customers, he risks his darling pushing more people away than she lures in.

Lucky for Starbucks, their products are addicting. Alluring logo or not, the caffeine deprived will still flock to the green and white awnings, though some may do so while scratching work-weary eyes thinking, “Fine, but what the hell does this mermaid really have to do with my macchiato?”

About The Author

Erin Kilmer is a Blast junior editor

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