Wednesday, January 19, 2011

If it ain't broke, don't fix it

By Tim Richardson

Human beings are creatures of habit, period. We like our normal routines, the comfort that we find when the stars align for us. Tradition, normalcy – all things that help us get through the day-to-day challenge of a thing called “life.”

So when brands that we are loyal to and swear by decide to do anything that adversely impacts our routine, we don’t like it. Yes, I’m talking to you Starbucks.

For those who are unfamiliar with what the fuss is about, let me bring you up to speed. In March 2011, Starbucks will celebrate its 40th anniversary. Earlier this month, the company announced that, as part of that milestone, it was removing the words “Starbucks Coffee” from its signature green logo so its mermaid, or “Siren” icon, was more prominent. Say what?

Loyal Starbucks’ customers (like this one) do not like the new logo. In my opinion, the new design looks like the artwork is incomplete. The company says the change is part of a marketing plan that involves making Starbucks about more than just coffee. Okay??? Talk about forgetting “what got you there.” Consumers used words like “tacky” and “unprofessional” when venting their frustration on the company’s Facebook page. Additionally, nine different Facebook groups or pages in opposition to the new logo were created. Starbucks is an international brand and removing that key word in the logo is puzzling to me.

We’ve all heard the axiom, “if it ain't broke, don't fix it.” Just ask the Coca-Cola Company and GAP how it went for them when they ignored this idiom.

Let’s start with Coke. On April 23, 1985, the company changed its 99-year old formula and introduced a “new coke” to the public; a move that many experts still refer to as the “marketing blunder of the century.”

The company was inundated with calls from unhappy customers, and estimated receiving around 1,500 calls a day on its consumer hot line…compared to the standard 400 the day before the change was announced. Consumers were not happy that the company, despite the fact that it owns the product, took “their” Coke away. Coca-Cola conceded and returned to a variation of the old formula, under the name “Coca-Cola Classic” in July 1985. That day, the Coca-Cola Company received over 30,600 positive calls on their hot line. New Coke is no longer available.

A more recent example of why not to rock the boat involves one of the world's largest specialty retailer, Gap, Inc. In early October 2010, the company changed its well-recognized logo. The very uninspired new look debuted quietly on the company’s website, but was met with immediate displeasure from consumers and the media. The negative outcry caused the company to scrap the new logo just one week after unveiling it. Gap President Marka Hansen admitted that is was “an ill-conceived rollout” and the company expressed regret for the anger the move triggered in its loyal consumers.

At the end of the day, we are simple people who like things the way we are accustomed to having them. We don’t just drink the product, eat the food or wear the clothing; we feel a connection to it. It’s more than a brand for many of us, it’s a sense of comfort in a hectic world.

Tim Richardson
is Executive Vice President at Maroon PR. Contact him at

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