Premier Communications Group

Analysis: Seattle’s Best Coffee Rebranding Campaign

Seattlesbestlogo240x160There are several instances where rebranding is a necessity for a business. It can be a signal for a good change for some (mergers, product line expansion), or less savory reasons (tainted, outdated image). Regardless of the reason, there’s a thin line between the right and wrong way to go about rebranding. The first step to a successful rebranding campaign is to first outline the extent of the rebranding campaign, which usually be determined by the impetus behind the desired change in market perception.

Seattle’s Best Coffee (SBC) recently unveiled their new logo and accompanying buzz campaign to lukewarm reviews thus far, which begs the question- is their rebranding campaign necessary? It doesn’t take a detective to decipher what exactly they’re looking to shed–just compare their new landing site with the soon-to-be-old one. A rustic, burgundy tone becomes strikingly red, Anniversary Roast is nowhere to be found and perhaps most telling, “Celebrating 40 Years” has changed to “1970 was a long time ago.” There’s nothing wrong with taking on a modern look, but at the same time the company must realize it runs the risk of jeopardizing its heritage.

SBC currently has a retail and grocery sub-store presence in 20 states and Washington, D.C. Sub-stores can also be found in some J.C. Penney stores, along with more than 400 stores in Borders Bookstores throughout the nation. As it stands, they lack the national-level name cache that some of their coffeehouse brethren carry–even with the positioning at Borders and the recent announcement that Burger King will add SBC to their menu.


As they plainly state on their new website, one of the reasons behind the new look is to increase their market reach and perception in the new markets (see: enhanced approachability, accessibility and affordability). As such, the distancing from the vintage look makes sense as they take aim at industry leaders such as McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts through a very clear and concise new brand. However, by not just ditching their old look, but rather obliterating it, they have officially placed themselves in the extreme generic end of the consumer products spectrum.

In assessing the overall effectiveness of the rebranding campaign, the debate over the logo design must be kept separate. In answering the original question at the beginning of this post, we do not agree with their decision.  While aspects of their campaign such as the well-produced “relaunching” viral video stand out, on the whole the rebrand appears to be rather confusing.  A statement on their website also states that while their dedication to making “premium coffee” will remain unchanged, they needed a refreshed look to show a “simplified approach to great coffee experiences.” The key words to pull from that are “premium” and “simple”, which in Marketese roughly translate to “oil” and “water.” As many companies have found in the past (including SBC’s parent company), traveling along this road means risking the watering-down of its’ premium products—or turning your core consumer base away.

By Mike Fossano

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