Starbucks without Limitations

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Starbucks Logo
photo credit: Starbucks

By now you’ve probably heard that Starbucks has introduced a new logo, with intentions of moving into the realm of Apple and Nike — a logo without words. It’s a bold move, and one that not many companies have the brand equity to pull off – however, given Starbuck’s significant marketshare they are positioned better than most to make the leap. It is something that many brand advisors aspire to, so it’s not surprising that Starbucks is making the attempt.

Whatever you think of the new logo, the probable reasons for the change make sense. Imagine trying to operation an international brand that is limited by both English as an integral part of the logo and the word “coffee.” Although Starbucks has made a valiant effort toward being known for more than just coffee-expanding their stores to carry teas, hot chocolate, and food – they are still defined by their name and logo “Starbucks COFFEE.” While that may be part of their long term plan, they may also want the flexibility that would come from not being defined as “coffee.”

The new logo frees Starbucks to enter the world stage, unfettered by the constraints of their current logo. This lesson is an important one to consider if you do not yet have a logo you are regularly using – or are considering a name change. While your business is probably not big enough to go nameless – do consider the limitations that your logo and name require, and make sure you can live with those limitations. Words like “coffee” on a logo unnecessarily limit the brand to just…coffee.

If Starbucks had a long view of their brand twenty or even ten years ago, they would have taken the step at that time to minimize the definition of their business by “coffee.” They would have instead focused on the Third Place, which is at its heart what the Starbucks brand stands for. It’s a broader definition that allows them to branch out to tea, food, and whatever other brand extensions they choose to consider in the future.

So love it or hate it, the new Starbucks logo takes a long-overdue step toward allowing Starbucks the freedom they need to see their brand into the next era, with coffee as a component, but not the sole component of their future.


Tisha Oehmen

Tisha Oehmen is a professional brand strategist and a leader in the branding field. She was recently named a member of the Global Guru’s Top 30 Brand Gurus. She is also the co-founder of Oregon-based Paradux Media Group and the best-selling author of the book, Finding Brand: The Brand Book Tutorial.

Possessing expertise in both front- and back-office operations, Tisha conceptualizes, develops, and implements initiatives to foster brand effectiveness like no other. With over 15 years of experience in branding and marketing, Tisha has successfully led large financial institutions and health care companies down the path of renaming their business.

Where Tisha really shines is in the work that isn’t done. Sometimes a name change for a business isn’t in their best interest and after meeting with Tisha, they are able to find the true value and equity that has always been in their brand. Tisha has a special knack of being able to communicate the value so that the CEO/Business owner can see its luster and then with a little polishing, make it shine company wide.

Tisha is best known for developing long lasting branding campaigns that speak to the heart of the business, the brand, and the community. True brand, no matter how big or small, has longevity. Creating branding campaigns that have longevity, that have a laser-like focus, is where Tisha thrives.

Tisha received her M.B.A. from the University of Oregon, from where she also earned a B.A. in Political Science. She enjoyed a distinguished academic career punctuated by enthusiastic and successful participation in competitive speaking events, and holds numerous awards for her skill in public speaking. Tisha is widely recognized for her ability to capture an audience’s attention with her straightforward and engaging speaking style.

When not working, she enjoys golfing, baking, reading, and hiking with her partner, Mike, and their two dogs, Chloe and Jackson. She’s also an active member of Rotary International, the Chamber of Commerce, and is a very proud supporter of the Oregon Ducks. Tisha lives in Eagle Point, Oregon.

Reader Interactions


  1. Paul Flanigan says

    You’re one of the few that support the change, and I agree with you.

    The critique of the logo on the web-o-sphere shows how important logos are to a company, and change, in this case, is something most people don’t like. Rhetorically, regardless of your discipline in branding or marketing, YOU are a consumer of the brand, and you have opinions of change.

    Whether you like it or not, there are two things that are apparent: 1. Starbucks needed to do this to grow their business in the right ways (you’re right.) 2. After a year, no one will fuss.

    • Tisha says

      Visually, I agree – it’s not as strong as the old logo. But it’s so freeing for them that it’s worth the risk. I agree, in a year, it’ll be a non-issue.

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