Starbucking the Green Trend, Coffee Giant Goes Brown

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Join us in a toast, won’t you? Today we raise our cardboard cups of [insert your favorite piping hot beverage here] to contrarians such as Starbucks, who this month bucked the trend of going green–just as it reaches its Earth Day fever pitch–in favor of good ol’ nostalgia. And in this case, “nostalgia” comes in a muddy brown hue. The Seattle-based company is keeping its Design Studio HQ busy with a two-month-long switchup of its iconic green logo with the original 1971 version, which features a more maritimey, twin-tailed mermaid inspired by a Norse woodcut in the center of the company medallion. The old school logo, which made a brief reappearance for the company’s 35th anniversary in 2006, can now be found on on all ‘bucks cups. It will remain the logo of Starbucks’ new Pike Place Roast blend after the company rouses from its nostalgia this summer.

In BusinessWeek, Rob Giampietro of New York design firm Giampietro + Smith compared the move with those of baseball teams that don “throwback uniforms,” while writer David Kiley asked:

Is there a danger that, by rolling out the old logo once again, Starbucks might overplay the authenticity card? “There is never a danger in reminding your employees or your customers of your authenticity as long as you also keep moving forward in new, surprising ways that are relevant to people,” says Brian Collins, principal of the New York-based strategic branding firm Collins:. “When it’s done right–and consistently–it can be the smartest way to market an established brand.”

It’s unlikely that Starbucks would ever consider going brown for good….”As a color it’s so much less distinguished than the green, and the green conveys both a friendlier and more upscale image,” says Giampietro. “And it’s so Italian!” he adds, referring to Starbucks’ inspiration for the color, the Italian flag.

And fear not, even with the brown-logoed cups, those green straws aren’t going anywhere. Play ball!