Friday, May 30, 2008

The Strange Story of the Starbucks Mermaid

Apparently there is a controversy over Starbucks' move back to their original logo. It seems to be as puzzling as the move to "new Coke" in the 1980s. First, the cups are brown. Yuck. The green was so pleasing and easily identifiable. The old logo depicting the bare breasted woman with the double mermaid tail is also less attractive than the smiling sea-lady who has graced their cups since 1992. Sure, the old logo is historical. It is from a sixteenth century Norse wood cut. But not everything from old Norse woodcuts is suitable for just everyone's coffee cup. There is a Christian group protesting the new logo, claiming that the mermaid is essentially "a naked woman...with her legs spread like a prostitute." Well, given that these Norse guys were sailors back before their profession was polite and respectable, that take certainly seems reasonable. What happened to risk-averse, corporate common sense? The cup my wife just brought home (I don't drink the stuff; I prefer Dunkin') indicates that they have at least covered her breasts with the ends of her long locks. But she's still clearly a ho. It's really funny.

Read about it (I know, who's interested in Starbucks?) at Brand Autopsy. (The post is old. But I just recently started seeing these ugly brown cups.) Deadprogrammer's Cafe gives you even more on the use of the mermaid. The BBC also just did this story.

If you're interested in fascinating business stories, you can read Howard Schultz’s Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup At a Time, or Taylor Clark's Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce and Culture.


Richie said...

As an slave (employee) of the Evil Empire (Starbucks) I have a unique perspective on this logo business. Howard Schultz has recently (February, I think) assumed day-to-day control of Starbucks after a 5 year hiatus. Apparently, he was astounded/dismayed at the direction the company has taken in his absence. Mr. Schultz (and many of his employees, including me) felt that the company had become to0 McDonaldized, too impersonal, and was focusing too much on peripherals (Breakfast Sandwiches! Frappuccinos! DVD's!)instead The Kathy Bates looking wench currently gracing our cups is meant to be a nod towards the original Starbucks Coffee store in Seattle, which specialized It is a noble enough attempt to show customers we are committed to coffee, but it's like shutting the barn door after the horse has gone loose. Almost all of our sales are from frou-frou drinks, most of the 170,000 odd employees know nothing about coffee, and morale is at an all time low.

But you're right. She is definitely a ho.

David C. Innes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David C. Innes said...

Very interesting comment. If so much of the company's business is frou-frou drinks these days, why would Schultz, a businessman, move away from that? Profit is profit. Business follows the market. Also, you say he wants to get back to coffee, yet unlike the green logo the retro brown logo says not just coffee but also tea and spices. It doesn't add up. Can you help me? Can anyone help me?

David C. Innes said...

The new Starbucks in the Empire State Building at street level opened today. Very nice. There is also a downstairs lounge and table area. But I see green, not brown.