The Coffee Formerly Known As Starbucks
Remember when Prince (aka: The Artist Formely Known As Prince/TAFKAP) tried it? He thought he was big enough to become known by an invented symbol/logo. Prince Rogers Nelson didn't stick with it but he is a bit of a fickle character.
Now Starbucks is at it. The coffee house that exploded across the globe and then got a little smaller thinks it's big enough to drop its name from its increasingly iconic 'Siren' logo. Returned Chief Executive, Howard Schultz, is probably right.
It's part of Starbucks' efforts to spread its brand across other products. Starbucks' Ice Cream is now appearing on American supermarket shelves.
"We've allowed (the siren) to come out of the circle in a way that gives us the freedom and flexibility to think beyond coffee", said Schultz who spearheaded Starbucks' massive expansion and was brought back to the role to rescue it after that expansion ran out of control.
But more than that, it's a well placed expression of confidence in one of the big brands (Google, Facebook, Twitter) that have exploded into the public mindset since the beginning of the 21st century.
The backlash has already begun from members of the public with little better to do. One post on its website describes the change as "a total waste of time, energy and money". Starbucks knows it's better to be talked about than not talked about. Its image revamp is more subtle than the clothing retailer GAP which backed down in the face of consumer resistance to its logo change in 2010 and reinstated its traditional "blue cube".
Conservative consumers have a long history of objecting to image changes. Remember the furore surrounding BA's ditching of the Royal Crest?
Starbucks is simply following the lead of the world's other megabrands. Nike's 'swoosh'; McDonald's 'golden arches'; and Apple's, well erm 'apple' have become readily identifiable representations of the brands they represent. For global brands it also dispenses of the need to rescript logos in other alphabets such as Chinese, Japanese or Arabic.
Most consumers who pay little attention to such brand evolutions won't give it a second thought. But whether we realise it or not the prominence that the new Starbucks Siren will certainly achieve will ensure its position in the world's visual language. Just like the three-pointed star says 'Mercedes' or "posh car"; a yellow shell surrounded in red says 'Shell' or "petrol/oil"; the siren will say 'Starbucks' or 'coffee' and who knows what else...
Can Two Turkeys Make An Eagle?
The competitive spin-doctrine from Nokia is that its tie-up with Microsoft has created a three horse race in the smartphone market.
Apparently the technology giants have created "a new global ecosystem" (really?). Methinks that type of over-excited, marketing nonsense was last in fashion when Nokia was
To continue with the horseracing analogy the reality is that Apple is already galloping towards the finish line while Google's Android has easily overtaken Nokia which is barely out of
the stable. The hope is that by tethering itself to the bloated stallion, Microsoft, Nokia's nag will run much faster.
Each partner says it will play to its strengths to deliver new and innovative products at a pace that keeps up with the competition. Microsoft brings the software. Nokia brings the
phones. Together they'll make a Nokia Windows Phone. It has a nice ring to it. But there's a long run ahead to overtake Apple's iPhone which in 2010 had 61% of the US premium phone market; up from
25% in 2008.
A leaked staff memo from the new Nokia boss Stephen Elop bluntly
illustrated the company's predicament. It was sleepwalking while Apple stole the march on the next generation of mobile phones. It hasn't worked fast enough to keep up with the competition and now
its lead at the low-tech end of the mobile market is also under threat.
In a memo to Nokia's 120,000 staff their new chief executive said: "The first iPhone shipped in 2007, and we still don't have a product that is close to their experience. Android came
on the scene just over 2 years ago, and this week they took our leadership position in smartphone volumes. Unbelievable."
"How did we get to this point? Why did we fall behind when the world around us evolved?"
"We haven't been delivering innovation fast enough. We're not collaborating internally."
Elop, a former Microsoft executive, drew a somewhat complicated analogy that rather simply illustrated Nokia's predicatment; like a man on a burning oil rig with no choice but to jump
into the icy waters of uncertainty below.
At its peak, Nokia was the leader that others followed in the mobile phone industry. It remains the world's biggest phone manufacturer and boasts that 1.3 billion people use its
handsets every day. But its new boss has acknowledged it's long since lost its innovative edge.
Together, Nokia and Microsoft could deliver an amazing product. Recently a friend of mine who works for Microsoft showed me his Windows Phone. I have to say I was very impressed but I
don't know anyone else who has one.
I have an iPhone and I love it. It has its flaws. It's far from perfect but isn't that part of every loving relationship?
Could another phone lure buyers away from Apple; the most popular kid in school whose products have a cult status that sees buyers queue overnight just to be the first to get
One of Google's executives drew another, rather unflattering animal analogy to the new marriage: "Two turkeys don't make an eagle."
Nokia and Microsoft never had the cult status that Apple commands. As for Microsoft, here's a very unscientific poll: Ask yourself if you've ever used its relatively new search engine
'Bing' as a first choice instead of Google. Did you know that Microsoft's Windows Live Mail/Hotmail has tried to reposition itself as a rival to Facebook? You mean you hadn't
Even Facebook's plan to launch a branded smartphone appears a little desperate in the face of the growing ubiquity of the iPhone. That said, Apple's chequered history would suggest Nokia's aspirations are not without foundation. It launched in the late 70s and rode the wave that was the personal computer revolution but ultimately it lost the war to IBM compatibility; the language that all PCs other than Apple now speak. By the mid-90s Apple was firmly on the decline. Then the iPod came along.
Perhaps Stephen Elop could be Nokia's Steve Jobs and drive a lazarus like rise from impending oblivion. Or perhaps the most significant development at Nokia this week is not its deal its Microsoft but the "negative credit watch" put on its rating by the agency by Standard & Poor's, the second such move in as many weeks.
Time For The Bitter Pill?
The world economy is sick and the patient is ailing. The medicine is bitter and nobody wants to swallow it. But where would we be without doctors to tell us it's essential for survival?
When things are looking bad, politicians and policymakers have a tendency for understatement.
But when the world's most powerful central banker Ben Bernanke warns there are "significant downside risks" to growth in the US, you know things are pretty bad.
That's why markets have tanked today; the man whose job is to add just the right seasoning to the perfect economic recipe is acknowledging there's a good chance the world's biggest economy is about to go off no matter what he does.
Having thrown spices into the pot; in the form of rock bottom interest rates and well over a trillion dollars worth of QE; adding "Operation Twist" to the mix has failed to satisfy investors.
Linus Yip, strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong, said: "What we could or should do has already been done - and it still hasn't supported the market. Nothing can help the market. So it feels very dangerous. I expect panic selling, hopefully the market will find its short-term bottom."
The man dubbed the "prophet of doom", economist Nouriel Rubini who is famed for seeing the last crisis before anyone has tweeted: "US, Eurozone and UK are effectively in a recession now. And policy makers are running out of policy rabbits to pull out their policy hats."
The world's leading economic watchdog, the International Monetary Fund, has concluded that the solution now rests with politicians and its boss Christine Lagarde has urged leaders to look beyond the next election.
President Obama has also called for "urgent and co-ordinated" action but there is little evidence of co-operation with his Republican opponents as they try to devise a plan to simultaneously keep the US growing and cut its deficit, meanwhile there's a Presidential race in the offing.
The IMF has forced Greece into slashing even more public spending by threatening to cut off its bail-out money supply.
It has less leeway with Eurosceptic Finns who are holding up the latest agreement to throw more money at Greece and expand the Eurozone's emergency fund.
Even less with Germany whose leader Angela Merkel is gradually losing her grip on power over an electorate who don't understand that the Euro's preservation is crucial to their fortunes; fortunes they refuse to share with poorer members of the single currency.
Politicians like Merkel have been playing the long game; hoping against hope they can gradually push through reforms more palatable to bail-out weary voters; meanwhile keeping their economies out of reverse gear.
But try as they might to prevent more taxpayer rescues, the slow pace of reform threatens to cause a banking system seizure once more with the IMF warning the Eurozone impasse leaves banks vulnerable to a further €300 billion of losses and that recapitalisation is needed.
Why Ecclestone Sold
Having restored Queen's Park Rangers to the Premier League after a painful 15 year absence, you might wonder why Bernie Ecclestone has sold up.
The Loftus Road club is Ecclestone's only sporting interest outside of Formula 1 but now it is being taken on by another F1 team owner and fan of rival West Ham, Tony Fernandes; Chief Executive of the Malaysian low-cost airline, Air Asia.
"I can't work it out", Professor Chris Brady, Dean of BPP Business School told Sky News.
"Considering they've reached the promised land, suddenly he wants to sell.
"I guess he thinks he can get out having made some money."
Banking a profit from a four year stewardship of QPR will not go down well with many fans unhappy with sharp hikes in season ticket prices that have been part of the current owners' strategy.
Professor Brady, himself an avowed football fan, sees things a little more pragmatically: "It's an inevitable consequence of rescuing a club's finances.
"Fans should cast their minds back three years ago and ask if they'd have been happy to be back in the Premier League."
QPR was facing financial ruin when Ecclestone and his partner Flavio Briatore - once Renault's F1 Team boss - took over in 2007.
They, along with Indian steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal who later bought into the consortium, brought the club back from the abyss but losses have grown as they tried to spend their way back into the Premier League.
"What they've done is take a loss-making company that was loss-making club on the field and turned it into a loss-making company that's successful on the field," according to Seán Hamil, Sports Management lecturer at Birkbeck College.
"A degree of rigour has been applied.
"In trying to qualify they've made a loss in the short run with a view to selling once they achieve promotion."
Its 21st century Premier League debut was a fixture at home to Bolton Wanderers.
A 0-4 defeat does not inspire confidence for the rest of the season.
Mittal will retain his 33% stake in the club and his son-in-law Amit Bhatia will resume his post of Vice Chairman.
They join the former Thai PM Thakin Shinawatra (Manchester City) and Hong Kong's Carson Yeung (Birmingham City) in a growing list of Asian businessmen with English football clubs in their toy-boxes.
"There are only three possible reasons for a businessman to buy QPR", concluded Seán Hamil.
"The first is to have a trophy asset which they can indulge and subsidise.
"The second is to try to turn it around and run it as a proper business but with a stadium that only holds 20,000 people the only way they'll do that is to build a new stadium with a capacity for at least 40,000.
"The third reason could be that it's a property play.
"A new owner might try to get away with selling Loftus Road and moving QPR out of town."
Fernandes has already given his backing to manager, Neil Warnock. "I think Neil is a super guy and he's done extremely well to have got QPR to where they are."
Warnock is hopeful Fernandes will invest in new players. He told Sky Sports: "He's very supportive [Fernandes]....
"If everything is sorted, the club can take a giant step like we've been trying to plan from the word go."
Birkbeck College's Seán Hamil is wary of the motives of rich investors: "If Fernandes wants QPR to break even, he's got a big challenge.
"If it's a trophy asset, he'll keep it until he gets bored and sells it onto the next man.
"What you want is a high quality owner like Delia Smith at Norwich; people who are successful in all walks of life but are uncontroversial.
"They will build up those institutions as sustainable businesses and that's what's good for the clubs."
Hot Air & Banking Reforms: The Bun-Fight Begins
Bankers and bank-bashers are watching and waiting for the final report of Sir John Vickers whose Independent Commission on Banking has been charged with designing root and branch reform of the industry in Britain after the financial crisis brought the world to its knees.
In brief, it's expected banks will be told to put a firewall around ordinary savers' deposits so they're not at risk from being wiped out by risky investments. It's also expected Sir John Vickers will tell British banks they should keep more money in reserve than their rivals overseas, in case of emergencies.
But despite the Chancellor's promise to implement the proposals in full; with just 10 days until publication the lobbying, squabbling and scaremongering has begun.
A headline in today's Daily Telegraph reads: "Draconian" reforms will push banks into a crisis.
The Guardian says: City hits back at Vince Cable over banking reform comments.
Those comments from the Business Secretary - the most vocal bank-basher in the coalition - were that banking lobbyists were being disingenuous in warning that the industry was not strong enough to survive reforms of the scale expected.
The evidence, City lobbyists argue, comes in the shape of a halving of bank share prices over the past six months and increasing signs of nervousness on inter-bank lending markets.
There's a PR war being fought on both sides. It's fair to say that banking lobbyists have far more financial and influential firepower to put behind their arguments. Sky's City Editor, Mark Kleinman, has revealed that a meeting between the Chancellor and banking industry leaders will take place in the coming days.
But after the worst financial crisis in living history, the bank-bashing brigade have captured the public imagination like never before.
Time, however, is not on the anti-bankers' side. The further the causes of this recession disappear into memory, the greater the focus turns to restoring economic growth by restoring the credit supply.
Even Andrew Tyrie MP, chair of the Treasury Select Committee - parliament's independent financial watchdog - has said he's worried that forcing banks to increase their capital reserves too quickly could undermine efforts to restore a healthy relationship between lenders and borrowers.
There is an exceptionally delicate balance to strike. Would you want to be the Chancellor right now? In Britain, the banking industry doesn't just service the economy by providing credit. Such is its size it is also an engine of the economy providing high value employment and taxes.
That, in turn, is an argument in favour of higher reserve requirements. Look at the size of the British and French banking industries compared to the economies in which they operate. Britain's is 50% bigger and therefore potentially 50% more expensive to save should the worst happen again.
If George Osborne steps back from his promise to implement the reforms in full, expect to hear even louder cries of yet another coalition U-turn from the opposition benches.
He has wriggle room, however, in the deadline he sets for the reforms to be achieved. It had been presumed that banks would be expected to change the way they work within the lifetime of this parliament. Now there are suggestions that to cushion the blow, banks could be given until as late as 2019 when the latest international rules on capital reserves (Basel III) come into effect.
The phrase goes that "Money Makes The World Go Round" and where you choose to stand in the argument depends on how important you think bank profits are to their ability to operate effectively or whether it's sensible to put speed limits on banks before they've accelerated their way out of trouble.
Don't forget of course that as shareholders in RBS and Lloyds, British taxpayers stand to win or lose no matter what path is chosen.