On Wednesday May 12th, Seattle’s Best Coffee, announced the beginning of their “brand transformation” with a new logo that (as they put it) matches their “optimist outlook and simplified approach to great coffee experiences.”

Over the next months and years, they plan to “show up in new ways and different places. Places where great coffee should be.”

This tactic is premature and not customer-ready.

Starbucks purchased Seattle’s Best in 2003. It was positioned in press releases as a way to offer coffee lovers a different taste profile than what Starbucks offers.

The two key drivers for buying Seattle’s Best discussed within Starbucks were:

  • For their food service business, and
  • To have a sister brand – of a lower tier – that would allow Starbucks (the corporation) to open in sites not suitable for the Starbucks brand. (Keep Starbucks positioned as premium, yet don’t lose business in those other spaces.)

Other than opening in Border’s bookstore locations, Seattle’s Best hasn’t done much during the past seven years.

And, each time one of those “second tier” locations became available, a Starbucks was built instead.

This has also helped to create a situation where consumers no longer see the gap of service / experience / quality between Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s / McCafĂ©.

One of the original intentions was to not broadcast Seattle’s Best as a sub-brand of Starbucks… Rather to leave them perceived as separate and even, competitors.

Other than making Starbucks seem even BIGGER and intent on taking over the world – there isn’t much value in promoting Seattle’s Best connected with Starbucks. So it makes no sense why Seattle’s Best is being promoted with the tagline:

“The next big thing from Starbucks isn’t Starbucks.”

Unfortunately, more than anything, Seattle’s Best is showing us what NOT to do.

What’s Confusing

  • Why Should Customers Care? Other than a landing page, a new logo, and a homemade video – there are no other changes. Especially none that benefit customers.
  • Seattle’s Best has killed their own thunder. When they do make a meaningful change, it will be expected versus a surprise. They will “owe it to us” versus surprise and delight us.
  • The ‘hope it goes viral’ video featuring Seattle’s Best employees breaking into the bell tower of Starbucks headquarters and covering up the Starbucks siren logo with the new Seattle’s Best logo doesn’t make any sense.

    Covering up the old logo with a new logo is what businesses do when one business buys another.

    Based on this tactic – to the average consumer – it appears Seattle’s Best has purchased Starbucks.

  • [Starbucks Bought By Seattle’s Best?]

  • Why is Seattle’s Best being promoted as “the next big thing from Starbucks?” What good does it do to promote Seattle’s Best as a Starbucks product?

    Seattle’s Best was recently launched at the coffee brand at SUBWAY sandwich shops. The ads feature the old logo. It would seem to make sense to wait to launch Seattle’s Best in SUBWAY until after the brand transformation? Especially with exposure Seattle’s Best is getting of the old log in SUBWAY ads.

What To Do Differently

Seattle’s Best has no news now. Stop trying to generate buzz and excitement for something that doesn’t yet exist.

  1. Make changes that benefit customers. (A spiffy logo is not a customer benefit). Do something new, different, or better than now:
    • Better product,
    • Better prices,
    • Better environment,
    • Better service…
  2. Relaunch this new, different, better at all locations on one day. Surprise customers – like an overnight beauty make-over.

    I visit my Seattle’s Best location today and BAM! – there is a new logo on the building exterior, new menu boards, new cups, new logo on products, on the aprons, new ads, and SUBWAY locations change as well. All this unveiled the same day – all at once. Wow!

    THAT is a brand transformation!

    Instead, they’re are doing it piece-meal. Instead of a beauty make-over, we have to watch them slowly grow out their hair… So slow, will we care that it is happening (and I quote) “over the next months and years.”

  3. Until there is anything truly newsworthy to share – keep this information internal .

    • Focus on getting buy-in and participation from your franchise team.
    • Get your employees on-board and excited.
    • Focus on whatever it is that is going to make you better than you were – other than a new logo.

What do you think?