Branding – hold the whipped cream!

“If your brand can be recognized by something simple and instinctive… then you’re a gateway rather than a stamp”. So said Ben Wolstenholme (Moving Brands CEO) in this post last year about Starbucks’ move to drop the wordmark from their identity. News today suggests they’re about to take a leap into the unknown once again, with Thursday’s launch of a de-branded “Experimental concept store” in Amsterdam.

According to Fast Company Design, the store has been set up as a test bed for new ideas – “The concepts that go over well in Amsterdam will find their way to other stores across Europe”. With a pared down aesthetic, and a traditional approach to the coffee making process, this store is a far cry from its Grande non-fat vanilla one-and-a-half-pulp soy tea latte no lid double cupped touting relative.

MB’s Aki also shared this link to the Starbucks b-side store which opened recently in Tokyo. Here too the brand identity is turn right down low, with focus applied to the aesthetic of nature and relaxation. Only the simple familiarity of cup copy – “Careful, the beverage you’re about to enjoy is extremely hot” – told in quirky neon lights, acts a signifier to the brand.

Across platforms Starbucks has shown itself again and again to be a gateway rather than a stamp: Since they first coined the concept of the ‘third place‘ all the way back when, to today in-store (as these examples above show), online (MyStarbucksIdea), and on-device (Starbucks Card Mobile), they’ve remained true to their strategy of building a community around coffee. And been unafraid of shedding any excess brand elements that just aren’t required anymore.  Starbucks may have come to represent all that is disappearing in localism, foodie-ism and craft, but there’s no denying that they have never been just about the logo.

Image courtesy of Fake Starbucks


  • Graham

    It is a shame that their online brand presence has lost it’s punch in the recent relaunch. It’s lost all it’s character. Also, being from New Zealand where coffee is ‘god’, Starbucks aren’t so popular 🙂