The Starbucks Journey

It all started in March, 1971 when the three partners Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl, and Gordon Bowker decided to sell high-quality coffee beans and equipment in Seattle. During the initial phase, the company only vended roasted whole coffee beans and did not yet brew coffee to sell. When the US witnessed a decline in the coffee sales during 1980’s, Starbucks was able to hold its position in the market by selling coffee in the specialty coffee segment. Later, in 1996, they commenced their overseas operations by opening the first Starbucks store in Tokyo, Japan. The brand which we see today has a rich coffee tradition and is strongly connected with the lifestyle of millions of people around the world.

Today, with more than 17,000 stores in 55 countries, Starbucks is the king among all the other specialty coffee brands in the world. Each of these stores is a reflection of Starbucks unique identity and traditional retail concept. The brand had undergone many changes in its appearance, customer experience and visual identity as a global customer and is moving ahead in the right track with a clear vision of the future opportunities.

How Starbucks positioned themselves as a premium brand?

One of the articles written by Laura Ries, the co-founder of Ries & Ries, explains some of the best ways that brands can use to position their products as a premium brand. According to Laura, the product with high price gets more value in the market since price is a major psychological factor in determining the value of a brand. Starbucks also followed the same principle and that made them to establish their name in the new premium coffee segment.

When normal coffee charged a dollar per cup, Starbucks made its price four times as much. This even made them more popular with a nick name “four bucks”. Apart from having the higher price tag, other supporting factors like their unique brand logo, fancy interiors, terms like barista, venti, grande etc., also made Starbucks stand out of other coffee brands.


A whole new brand

Keeping in mind the long journey ahead, the ultimate challenge in front of the brand was to strive for the progress of their three important properties: their renowned product, their unique environment and their state of omnipresence in the US market. For this, they needed an exclusive visual language and a set of strict guidelines to follow.

The Starbucks siren had already been there in the minds of people as a symbol of rich coffee tradition without considering the location. The super mermaid with two tails and long hair has always been the key consideration while creating the international design standards for various environments and locations.

Even though, the siren had undergone so many changes since its evolution in 1971, the biggest change came out was in 2011. What Starbucks did was really surprising! After long and extensive researches, Starbucks and its creative team finally ended up in a conclusion that compromising on the Starbucks logo can create more opportunities for the brand.

The “Starbucks Coffee” banner encircling the siren created a sense of coffee-centricity in the minds of people. Hence, the first move was to remove that banner in order to specify Starbucks withdrawal from coffee-centricity. Then they zoomed in on the siren a little bit, made her hair more stylish and improved her face a little bit. Apart from all these changes, she remained the same twin-tailed super mermaid.


Starbucks creative team has done an amazing job by making the full use of the siren’s features and created a whole new face for the brand. The waves of her hair and stripes in her tail can be seen in almost all the Starbucks resources. You can see the shapes from her crown in the Starbucks credit card and feel the unseen presence of the siren in their app. Moreover, all the Starbucks retail stores across the globe have been revamped in order to get in line with the new visual language. As a result, everything from packaging to interiors reflected the brand’s identity. Apparently, this entire siren-inspired visual toolkit made Starbucks stand out from its replicas and made the brand more invincible by providing a strong identity to it.

What happened after that was just WOW!

Surprisingly, the move made by Starbucks helped the brand to remain simple, yet powerful. The brand witnessed a huge growth in its sales and the stock prices almost got tripled in a very short period of time. Moreover, Starbucks also became successful in establishing their brand name in some of the strategic bases in China and the Asia Pacific regions. Later, they upgraded their digital platforms and online presence, which made the brand even more promising among the customers.


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