Thursday, January 06, 2011

What Business Is It of Yours?

I'm a little surprised by what has become a routine outcry among my friends in the design community. It's like every time a company comes out with a redesigned logo, they have to do it gingerly, carefully, calculatedly and nearly scared, knowing that a huge storm of criticism is about to be unleashed. Starbucks' CEO has to release a minute and a half video explaining the evolution of its iconic "siren" logo? Of course it didn't change the fact that designers the world over are up in arms. And I don't doubt for a second that Starbucks knew it was coming and welcome it. "This buzz is going to be great for us," someone said in Seattle.

Did The Gap suffer slumping sales after the online backlash that compelled them to drop their logo change? Did the people making all the noise even shop at The Gap? Gap showed extreme spinelessness during that uproar. I hope Starbucks doesn't yield.

If I had a company, I would change the logo overnight, without fanfare and without pandering. Not so much as a press release. Just send the sign crews out and get it done on the storefronts and swap out the in-store stuff as the old stuff runs out. Without focus-grouping and without crowd-sourcing. Starbucks is Starbucks. Your average Starbucks consumer might someday look at the cup and go, "Hmmm - they changed the cup a little," and then never give it a second thought.

(Click for bigger)

But we live in Insta-WorldTM, in this consumer-driven, conversation-intense environment where the slightest misstep, or perceived misstep, is amplified and bounced around the world in seconds, where everyone's an expert and a company is nearly paralyzed with fear to make any move. And if they get criticized, they must hurry to the defense and engage a team of brand reputation management specialists to reply to negative tweets or blog posts or Facebook updates. Hurry! Scrub the wires for any negative mention that might hurt us.

You know what, big brands? They're just a bunch of noisemakers trying to make noise. For every whining baby out there making a stink about your products or service, there are likely a thousand loyal and satisfied customers you will never hear from. You go ahead and do what you can to alleviate legitimate gripes and resolve obvious issues. That's just smart business and wise customer service. Businesses were doing that long before social media came into relevance.

Brand loyalty is a wonderful thing. I'm not a Starbucks guy, but I know plenty of people in love with the stuff. They're not going anywhere. But if they want to chime in and tell you what to have as your company icon? That's when you tell them they might be happier with a cup of coffee from 7-Eleven.

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