Leading article: Wake up and smell the coffee

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The Independent Online

You might think the logo on the side of the cup doesn't much matter; that it's the quality of the coffee that counts. But you would be wrong. Wake up and smell the marketing.

If branding wasn't important, why would the coffee giant Starbucks be "refreshing" its logo? Yesterday, the firm announced it is to drop the words "Starbucks" and "coffee" from its logo, leaving only the image of the bare-breasted mermaid it calls The Siren. Immediately, feedback on its website became over-stimulated. When you are spending £2 on a latte, drinkers fulminated, you at least want people to know where you got it from.

People are buying much more than a drink. "We give a great experience," as the head of Starbucks once put it. If you are selling a brand, as much as a product, you need to keep up with a market that thrives on constant novelty. The plan is to broaden the focus of the business to sell other products. Or, as Starbucks puts it, "the freedom and flexibility to think beyond coffee".

But there may be hubris in Starbucks imagining that it is now established enough to survive with a wordless logo like Apple or Nike. The company's share price fell on the news. The Siren, they should recall, was a mythical creature who lured the sailors of ancient Greece to their deaths.