* Starbucks unveils new, simplified logo
* Last change was in 1992, when company went public
* Brand experts mixed on logo change (Adds details from brand experts, details on logo history, byline; updates stock activity)
By Lisa Baertlein
LOS ANGELES, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Starbucks Corp (SBUX.O), the world’s biggest coffee chain, dropped both its name and the word “coffee” from its 40-year old logo, prompting cries of outrage from people who said they were loyal customers.
The new green logo amplifies the company’s female siren symbol — representing half-human mythical temptresses who led sailors to their deaths — as Starbucks tries to build new billion-dollar brands sold outside its network of cafes.
“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,” Chief Executive Howard Schultz said on a webcast to explain the change.
(For a photo of the new logo, click link.reuters.com/veq84r)
Self-described Starbucks fanatics were not impressed, and many of the 156 comments on the company’s website called for the well-known Seattle company name to be reinstated.
“Who’s the bonehead in your marketing department that removed the world-famous name of Starbucks Coffee from your new logo? This gold card user isn’t impressed!” wrote one customer who identified herself as MimiKatz.
Another wrote: “I have been a big supporter of (Starbucks) since the early days, taken expensive rides in taxis to get my morning coffee, even waded through two feet of snow in my business suit ... but I do not see the logic of your Business Development folks for the removal of the Starbucks name.”
Executives said the logo, which was designed by an in-house team, would appear first on paper products like cups and napkins in March and then be phased in over time.
The company declined to say how much it would spend swapping out the logos.
The world’s biggest coffee chain has not changed its logo since it went public in 1992.
Some brand experts questioned whether the change was a smart move, and even likened it to a recent ill-fated attempt by clothing chain Gap Inc (GPS.N) to change its well-known brand image. [ID:nN11138046]
“I think it’s nuts,” said James Gregory, CEO of brand consulting firm CoreBrand. “What’s it going to be — the coffee formerly known as Starbucks?”
The new logo probably won’t hurt cafe sales in the near term because most Starbucks customers are enthusiasts, Gregory said. But he said a nameless logo was a bad fit for Starbucks products sold by grocery stores and other retailers.
“There you’re dealing with people who aren’t enthusiasts. You’re looking at something that’s almost generic and it’s not shouting out as something that is Starbucks.”
Robert Passikoff, president and founder of Brand Keys Inc, a consumer and brand loyalty consulting firm, said the move could prove wise if Starbucks moved more aggressively into a wider portfolio of consumer goods.
“If it isn’t (the reason for the change) and they’re just trying to freshen stuff up, no one cares,” he said.
Schultz timed the debut of the logo to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the founding of the first Starbucks store in Seattle.
Over the years, the symbol has been transformed from a bare-breasted siren grasping her two tails in each hand to a more generic, family-friendly image.
For the original logo, the founders of Starbucks were looking for a way to capture the seafaring history of coffee and Seattle’s strong seaport roots.
Poring over old marine books, they found a 16th century Norse woodcut of a twin-tailed mermaid, or siren.
“Our new evolution liberates the siren from the outer ring, making her the true, welcoming face of Starbucks,” the company said on its website.
Starbucks shares closed down 0.4 percent at $32.35.
Reporting by Lisa Baertlein, editing by Michele Gershberg, Dave Zimmerman and Ted Kerr