Lidija Milovanović: Starbucks, Starbaks or Старбакс?

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Associate Creative Director at McCann Beograd, Lidija Milovanović, shared with Netokracia portal her view of the burning topic in the world of advertising – the demands of the city authorities for the American coffee chain Starbucks label to be in Cyrillic.

The long-awaited and world famous Starbucks brand is coming to Belgrade by the end of this year. The famous green-blue logo will surely attract a large number of tourists who could remain confused if they see the inscription of this company in the Cyrillic alphabet, as Deputy Mayor Goran Vesić announced. We analyzed this decision of the city government from the marketing aspect.

According to Goran Vesić’s statement, which was broadcast by almost all domestic media, one of the conditions for the opening of the first Starbucks store in Belgrade was to use Cyrillic letters in the name of its future shop, in addition to the standard Latin ones. By the way, it’s interesting that on this occasion, Vesić especially emphasized that all business and private tenants of the space owned by the city receive an additional 5% discount on all taxes if they point out the name of the company in Cyrillic.

The aforementioned brand was established in 1971 in Seattle, and has more than 28,000 outlets around the world now, while the company itself is part of the AmRest Holdings portfolio (the largest restaurant operator in central Europe) since 2008, when the first store opened in Prague.

It is clear that a company like Starbucks, planning to expand to a new market, is certainly not interested in additional discounts, but an exclusive location, environment and competition analysis in a city whose inhabitants are traditionally big fans of the famous beverage. Was Vesić only using this company’s arrival to announce the aforementioned benefits that should be voted on at the Belgrade City Assembly, and among other things, provoked the story of Cyrillic inscriptions?

According to him, this is just one example of promoting our letter, because it says “if we don’t appreciate our culture, nobody will.” Why Starbucks, and where are IKEA (in the middle of the highway), KFC, McDonald’s, and others, that is the question for the deputy mayor? All of the above brands have their own inscriptions in Latin. If we want to be consistent with the question of preserving an official letter, like Russians are, let’s change everything. We know how difficult, or even impossible, this would be.

Taking pictures for Instagram or truly keeping a tradition?
Wanting to know how the whole story about Starbucks’s Cyrillic inscription appears from the marketing side, we talked to Lidija Milovanović, Associate Creative Director at McCann Beograd. She believes that both the Latin script and Cyrillic script are our letters, so they are both important, with a special view of the Cyrillic alphabet, which is rarely used in contrast to the Latin alphabet which is more universal and ubiquitous, and this should be taken into account:

The richness of our language functions with two letters and it’s not necessary to favor the Cyrillic if it’s not a good solution from the design and aesthetic points of view. We have always met foreign brands whose names are written in Latin, and maybe we should primarily expect the domestic brands to use Cyrillic instead of Latin. On the other hand, it’s always interesting to see a world brand make a variant of its logo in another letter, while retaining a recognizable visual identity.

On the question whether this Starbucks decision could attract or confuse foreign tourists who are not familiar with the Cyrillic script, Lydia points out that visual communication is developed as never before, and that large brands such as Starbucks are so recognizable that such a change would never confuse the observers. “Such changes are normal and expected, especially in environments that use different letters. Such a move can only be interesting and somewhat exotic, not for the tourists but for domestic consumers who would appreciate such moves for a reason, “Lidija pointed out.

It is true that the citizens of Belgrade have waited long for this popular company to finally shine in one of the busy streets of the city. The Cyrillic script will not put the famous logo in the background when it comes to tourists, but on the other hand, this decision by the city authorities remains unclear. Is Starbucks so popular, more than other well-known brands in the Serbian market, that it has to respect the national letter in order to promote it.

Does this have to be one of the reasons for preserving our letter? Doesn’t have to be. If we aren’t consistent in other fields, and if the latin language has long been universally accepted, then the name of a company in Cyrillic will not really change much in preserving the tradition. It can only be interesting for photographers and publishing on Instagram with a #Старбакс hashtag.

The original publication can be found here.