Starbucks unveiled a boldly simplified logo yesterday — promptly polarizing both critics and customers. While the brand's iconic mermaid is still intact, gone are the concentric rings that surrounded her and the seemingly key words "Starbucks" and "coffee." One branding critic praised the effort to reduce the company's identity to pure symbol (a la Nike's swoosh), calling it "fantastic." But others have compared the makeover to The Gap's recent rebranding debacle and called it "risky," while customers have been assailing Starbucks' website with complaints: "Who's the bonehead in your marketing department that removed the world-famous name of Starbucks Coffee from your new logo?" wrote one dismayed fan. Starbucks's president, Howard Schultz, says the "small but meaningful update" will "ensure we remain relevant" as Starbucks continues to expand globally and increasingly sells non-coffee merchandise. Bad move?

No, it's a smart, elegant update: "This is a fantastic, confident evolution" that reveals how clunky and loaded with extraneous elements the previous logo was, says Armin at Brand New. Those freaking out about the loss of the brand name need to "chill." Rest assured you'll still see the Starbucks name spelled out on the street and in grocery style aisles. Besides, "with the amount of bandwidth that Starbucks occupies in the visual landscape, no one will confuse the siren as it being the icon for a hair salon, tiara manufacturer, or mermaid depot."
"All right Mr. Schultz, I'm ready for my close-up"

It's boring but sensible: The new look is "rather uninspired," says Suzanne Labarre at Co.Design, but it makes sense. "You don't need 'Starbucks Coffee' on a bottle of beer anymore than you need it on a store somewhere in China, where no one speaks English." And, it's "gutsy," placing Starbucks alongside rare mega-brands like Apple and Nike that have iconic logos that don't bear their names. "In taking this route, Starbucks is showing how deeply and confidently it has permeated the culture."
"With eyes on world expansion, Starbucks drops its name from new logo"

Yes, it's part of a larger identity crisis: "Starbucks should not be looking to Apple as the guide, but to McDonald's, KFC, and other American food chains," says Tamar Fleishman at Examiner. Instead of using its name recognition, the company seems to be running away from itself. The inconsistency of its marketing policies over the last few years "reminds me of when Paris Hilton first came on the public radar — she used to wear every single trend at once. Classy."
"Starbucks just doesn't know what to do with itself, so it's changing its logo"

And it could be the beginning of Starbucks's ultimate decline: While some are praising this as an identity evolution, it actually represents "Starbucks' abandonment of its core equity," says Jim Edwards at BNET. The company should have learned from The Gap's logo debacle: "Giving your brand icon a whole-scale makeover invites backlash from loyal consumers" and "a mere haircut is the correct way to go." Starbucks had bounced back from tough times with record revenues last year, and this change was "needless."
"New Starbucks logo signals onset of brand worsification"