Going public with redesigns: not for the faint of heart

newstarbuckslogoWith the Great GAP Logo Debacle of 2010 barely in our rear-view mirrors as we head into 2011, another iconic brand — Starbucks — has decided to change its logo. (That’s the new version on the left.) And just as we saw with GAP’s move to change its visual identity, not everyone is happy with this decision.

I’m not all that perturbed by this latest iteration of the Starbucks visual identity. I’m actually more concerned about their experiments in brand extensions over the past few years — moving beyond the core brand experience as a Third Place and into the music business, for example.

What I find most interesting about Starbucks’ rollout of this new logo is the reaction. The anti-change comments reacting to this rollout — which appears to be very well-planned and -executed — remind me of the comments we received at Missouri S&T when we first unveiled our new logo on our Name Change Conversations blog back in 2007. Our announcement was admittedly less polished than Starbucks’, but it aroused similar passions, both for and against the change. Mostly against.

Starbucks’ experience aligns with ours in at least one respect: people who are passionate about your brand will not be shy about expressing their opinions. Also, as we learned with our university’s name change in 2007 and 2008, it is critical to openly communicate with stakeholders about changes in identity — whether it has to do with an organization’s visual identity or something deeper, such as its name and all that is associated with that.

But openness can be risky. You are exposing your organization to critique and ridicule.

The question is, how will the organization respond to those slings and arrows? Will leaders thoughtfully consider the comments, weighing stakeholders’ and customers’ views against other business goals to make the decision that they, as leaders, believe is best for the organization? Cave to the critics? Ignore the critiques completely?

In the end, I suspect Starbucks will stick with its strategy and roll out the new logo without much backlash. Immediate reactions may be harsh, but over time people accept the changes.

Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

11 thoughts on “Going public with redesigns: not for the faint of heart”

  1. “Immediate reactions may be harsh, but over time people accept the changes.”

    And there’s a way to mitigate even that: shift the reaction to the earliest part of the design process as possible.

  2. Don’t know if I agree with Andrew W – having led a university re-naming and re-branding myself, I think it’s important to engage stakeholders early on in the research process i.e. ask them about what they feel the brand “truths” are – but then leave the designers alone for a bit to work out something which tells this story. Having non-designers engage in visual identity manipulation at an early stage can be disastrous, and you could end up with something which doesn’t mean anything to anyone. I think polarising opinions can be good – love or hate, at least there’s passion there! I’d be more concerned if no-one seemed to care. But engagement throughout the process is very important, as is making sure the story is told.

  3. I think we agree, Danielle. I was suggesting that the emotional part for the university at-large happen as close to the beginning of the process as possible.

  4. I think we all agree that involving stakeholders as early as possible in a process is important. Nobody likes surprises. We tried to do that very thing with our name change process, using as many communications vehicles at our disposal as possible. But in the end, no matter how much you reach out to stakeholders throughout the process, there are always those who will be surprised when a change is very publicly revealed.

    Writing this post, I thought of the 20-60-20 rule of change management, which I doubt has any firm data to back up but which seems to be a workable approach. It boils down to this:

    20 percent of your stakeholders will love your approach no matter what, so don’t worry about them.

    20 percent will hate your approach no matter what, so don’t worry about them.

    The 60 percent in the middle are those who must be swayed. Worry about them.

    Engaging everyone throughout the process is critical, but in the end, some minds will not be swayed.

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