starbucks_logoSeattle-based Starbucks unveiled a new logo yesterday to divided reviews in the branding community.

The new logo eliminates the name completely, relying only on the iconic mermaid image to identify the brand.

Some branding experts consider this move a savvy adaptation to a changing media environment. Says Kevin Budelmann, president of Peopledesign:

‘There is an ongoing desire to simplify graphic identities so that they can be more portable into different kinds of media spaces. Today people thinking about new graphic identities are thinking about facebook icons and Twitter icons just as often as stationery or business cards.”

Certainly. But that has never precluded a brand identity from having a simpler version of a logo for such instances. Pepsi, for example, uses its circular mark as an icon when it suits and its full name/mark lock-up when it doesn’t.

I have two issues with the stripping away of the Starbucks name from its logo. First, a customer’s brain now has fewer points of connection to the brand. While we learn and remember best through pictures, text provides its own form of symbology.

More troubling is speculation that dropping “Starbucks Coffee” from the logo may signal that the company intends to move the brand into adjacent, non-coffee spaces. While it’s true that Starbucks has always been more about the experience than just the coffee, its brand perception can only move so far without damaging its core.

Starbucks will always be associated with coffee. While the company may attempt to extend the brand into other types of foods, it does so at its own peril.