Sparks August 2008 -

Sparks August 2008

In the News

What happened to Starbucks?
For some, it seems the Apocalypse must be nigh: Starbucks, giant of the Fancy Coffee industry, is closing 600 stores.

After nearly 40 years in business, and defining an era, what went wrong?

Many have rightly pointed out that Starbucks overreached itself, with an almost McDonald’s-like saturation of the market. Store after store opened (nearly 5,000 since 2005) with seemingly little regard for appropriateness. Starbucks became its own biggest competitor.

What many commentators have overlooked, however, is that Starbucks went off-brand. The explosive growth of the chain in the ’90s revolutionized how people viewed coffee. Rather than settle for a simple “cuppa” delivered by a waitron, Americans were delighted with the brand that brought them baristas,” Italian names for cup sizes, and a dizzying variety of options.

Starbucks’ brand was never built to be mainstream. Its product and language has always positioned it as an exclusive, up-market brand that was just affordable enough for the middle and and upper-middle class. Today it’s in the neighborhood Kroger or even gas station: the epitome of mass marketing.

As the economy tanked, that mass market had less disposable income. Upscale markets viewed Starbucks less as the brand of the upwardly mobile and more as yet another brand-gone-bland.

The result? Starbucks is closing 5% of its stores and laying off over 10,000 “baristas” and others. Had it been more brand conscious, Starbucks might have preserved its unique niche and been better able to adjust to the economic downtown.
What you can learn from Starbucks’ mistakes

Neat product? Neat website!
When it comes to finding something cool on the Web, sometimes we feel like we’ve seen it all.

But along comes this site from HEMA, a Dutch catalogue company with products similar to what you’d find in a trendy Target.

Its colorful products and clean design look like the streamlined design that the Netherlands is known for. But wait about ten seconds to see the Netherlands’ party side!

A nice touch? They keep the story moving all the way through to the end, where all the classic Dutch cleanliness is left a bit disheveled.

Part Rube Goldberg, part pure fun, this site shows how a creative approach can spice up even the most prosaic products!
Want your marketing to show creative flair? Contact us for an initial consultation!




This month’s winner: Cathy Moore!
Our champ wins a digital print featuring this one-of-a-kind design. Have a favorite quote or saying? Send it in! If your quote is chosen, you’ll receive a print of your custom design suitable for framing! Check out your competition here.

Client Spotlight

The $99 logo
Why are logos “expensive”? Doug Bartow, principal of id29, gives you a glimpse inside a professional designer’s brain—and a great critique of “bargain” logos—in Let the (Logo) Games Begin.

He hires 4 “cheapie” design firms to develop a logo for a fictional roller derby team and then critiques both the process and the results. For those who wonder why logo development is “expensive,” this is a great tutorial!

Logos must be memorable. Almost all the logos look the same. In some cases, they use the same elements.

Logos must be technically accurate. Every logo uses tiny type which would be impossible to screenprint onto a real roller derby shirt.

Logos must express the essence of an organization. Since none of the design companies bothered to find out what the essence of the roller derby team was, it’s not surprising that none of the logos is usable.

Of course, for a cash-strapped start-up , sometimes a cheap logo is the only option . But businesses who want to be taken seriously must take their visual identity seriously. Invest in quality design to see a return on that investment for years to come.