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Analysis, Brand Identity, Content Marketing

5 Key Lessons from Starbucks’ Recent Rebranding

A dive into the ins-and-outs of a super-brand

Matt Duczeminski
December 11 2019

If you’ve been following us here at PostFunnel for a while, you know we’re huge fans of Starbucks. So when their new microsite “Creative Expressions” went live, we were intrigued.

The site explains how the company’s marketing and design teams stay aligned as they create promotional ads and other content. Publicizing these guidelines provides customers with a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how they create their content. This serves Starbucks’ efforts to connect with their customers “with transparency, dignity, and respect.” What’s more, it provides guidelines for customers looking to create some Starbucks-focused content of their own.

More from PostFunnel on branding:
Using Brand Personality to Delight Customers
Asking the Experts: When It’s Time to Rebrand?

The Starbucks Creative Expressions microsite addresses five key elements of the brand’s promotional content:

  • Logo
  • Color
  • Voice
  • Typography
  • Illustration and Photography

Let’s take a closer look at how Starbucks uses each of these elements to create instantly recognizable content that attracts and engages its customers.

The Ubiquitous Starbucks Logo

Whether you’re a Starbucks addict or never step foot, one thing is for sure: you’re more than familiar with their logo because it is identifiable on nearly every urban street corner. In fact, Starbucks even refers to its logo as one of the company’s “most recognizable assets.”

The other most recognizable Starbucks asset? Their wordmark:

Notice that the company intentionally decouples these assets. As its website explains: “The preferred approach is to use the Siren logo by itself, unlocked from the wordmark. This allows flexibility to present the Siren with greater prominence while maintaining a considered, open and modern presentation.”

From a practical perspective, this makes sense: by itself, the image takes up less space than the image and wordmark and will fit better in promotional content and other areas. Furthermore, there’s no need to use both at the same time; most coffee lovers instantly identify the green mermaid with Starbucks.

And of course, the wordmark is self-explanatory. Including the logo with the wordmark is redundant, or even overkill. While the two play off each other, neither asset relies on the other to spur brand recognition. Starbucks’ recent rebranding makes sure that each can stand alone—allowing the design team more flexibility in how they apply them in their marketing.

Takeaway

A strong logo that represents your brand is important for recognition and recall. But an awesome logo isn’t always enough to spur awareness. As Starbucks demonstrates, you need to present your logo strategically to ensure your audience is exposed to it at the right moments. In fact, consistent promotion of branded material has been shown to improve brand visibility by 400%.

The lesson?

Keep your logo simple to allow for maximum flexibility. The easier it is to fit your logo into promotional and branded content, the easier it will be for your audience to recognize it.

A Family of Green Colors

Another instantly recognizable aspect of Starbucks’ promotional material is the “family of greens.”

Starbucks Green, as the company explains, is the most identifiable of the brand’s assets—and is thus its most used color overall. In fact, the logo and wordmark are secondary to color, as the color is the coup de grâce that makes these assets so recognizable in the first place.

The company provides clear guidance on how designers should use each shade. For example, House Green is to be used as a secondary color when paired with Starbucks Green. However, it can also be used as a foundational neutral color when paired with the shades of white in the color palette.

As for putting these design principles into action, Starbucks uses a wide spectrum of approaches. In some cases, the team will go for a more functional, minimalistic approach:

But when it comes to celebrating certain holidays or times of year, Starbucks is a bit more expressive with its color themes:

Takeaway

While Starbucks Green isn’t always the focal color of their promotional content, it’s included in most materials in a way that never feels out of place. This is exactly what you should be aiming for when creating your brand’s color palette. A strong foundational color for your brand is essential for brand recognition and engagement. As with your logo, the goal is to get your audience to associate your brand’s coloring with its services.

Moreover, choosing a versatile color that can be used within a variety of color themes allows for flexibility and artistic expression in your promotional content. This provides more breathing room when creating marketing content, while still maintaining a consistent branded feel.

A Calm, Cool, and Refreshing Voice

One look at Starbucks’ messaging and it’s clear the brand is all about taking a moment out of your regular day to enjoy a quality drink or snack.

This is reflected in Starbucks’ branded voice. Effectively, the team aims to “turn down the volume of competing messages” and “remove obstacles” so its customers can find “exactly what they seek at Starbucks.” The company uses the same balance of functional and expressive approaches when creating its copy and developing its voice. In some cases, it’s more appropriate to strike a straightforward and informative tone:

In other cases, Starbucks is more “free” with their voice:

And often, they go the hybrid route:

Takeaway

No matter the message, the brand’s voice shines through. Their tone communicates the Starbucks value proposition just as clearly: its fans are just one sip of coffee away from .

In addition to using copy to entice its audience, the team also provides clear information and instruction, making it easy for customers to proceed in their journey with the brand. Take a cue from Starbucks and develop a strong voice that matches your brand’s image. Your audience will always know exactly what you have to offer and what they need to do to get it from.

Crisp Typography

Part of Starbucks’ recent rebranding involved the conscious decision to “move away from hand-lettering” in its use of typography. Instead, Starbucks has chosen three different typefaces to represent its brand:

Sodo Sans, a versatile typeface to be used mostly in body copy:

Lander, a serif font used in more emotionally expressive content:

…and Trade Gothic LT, a condensed font used in headlines, signage, and wayfinding materials:

Takeaway

As ConversionXL explains in incredible detail:

Typography matters.

Above all, your brand’s font(s) need to be clear, crisp, and readable. While some level of flair and style is appropriate at times, they should never detract from the message. Consistent use of a typeface is essential, as it allows your audience to automatically orient themselves when engaging with your brand. In using different fonts to convey various types of information, you’ll subtly convey different messages to consumers.

Engaging Imagery

Lastly, Starbucks’ microsite addresses the brand’s approach to creating branded illustrations and photographs. Regarding illustrations, Starbucks aims to “relate back to coffee or [the company’s] heritage in some way”:

Photographs should be “identifiably Starbucks,” heavily featuring the brand’s products:

Again, Starbucks includes a mix of functional and expressive illustrations and photographs within its promotional content. While function is often the name of the game, Starbucks isn’t afraid to get a little funky from time to time:

Takeaway

A strong visual presence is vital for brand recognition and recall. Studies show that adding images to text- and audio-based information improves memory retention by up to 65%! But again, it’s not about trying to stand out with flashy imagery. The goal is to strengthen your brand’s overall image through tangible designs. Though you’ll create a variety of images and other visual content as time goes on, each piece you develop should tie back to the customer experience.

Wrapping Up

Starbucks didn’t get to the top of the coffeehouse industry by mistake. Yes, the company makes coffee their customers love. It provides an overall experience that causes extraordinary brand loyalty. This would scarcely have mattered, however, had the team not created such consistent marketing and branding initiatives from the beginning. When creating anything related to your brand’s image, be intentional. No matter how small a piece of content or promotional material, know that its appearance will have an impact on your customers’ perception of your brand.

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Matt Duczeminski

Matt is a professional writer specializing in helping entrepreneurs improve relationships with their customers. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Sarah, and he'd probably get a lot more work done if his cat would stop bothering him.

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