The usually illuminating Tony Spaeth has let our industry down big time. In his review of Starbucks' new logo, Spaeth repeatedly refers (and quotes Starbucks Chief Design Officer Steve Barrett referring) to the move as a 'rebranding'.
Logo ≠ Brand.
Logo Change ≠ Rebrand.
It may seem like semantics, but it isn't. If you want to rebrand your organization, a new logo is only part of the formula, and a moderate (to non-designers) refinement of your existing logo is an even smaller part.
That's because your brand is your reputation - it's the value your stakeholders expect from you. Truly transforming that position in the minds of your internal and external audiences takes more than design - it takes action. Real, concrete, consistent action, over and over and over again – especially if your brand (like Starbucks') is built largely on a retail experience.
Precision matters. When veterans like Tony Spaeth conflate logos and brands, how can we be surprised when organizations think that all it takes to rebrand is to get the executive team to agree on a design?
Yes, Spaeth says Starbucks is working on "a fresh articulation of cultural attributes...Genuine, Thoughtful, Optimistic, Expressive and Engaging." But unless the previous attributes were Faux, Superficial, Despondent, Stoic and Withdrawn, these new ones are so generic that we don't believe they'll have much effect on the taste of Starbucks coffee, the design of Starbucks coffee shops or the behavior of Starbucks baristas. And those – not the contents of a circle on a cup – are the key forces that shape the Starbucks brand.