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Caribou vs. Starbucks: Go Big or Go Homey [UPDATE from Starbucks]

Caribou’s redesign makes a claim for Starbucks’s pseudo-authenticity.

Caribou Coffee

“Authentic.” It’s one of branding’s holy grails, implying good ol’ fashioned, home-spun quality, especially in tumultuous times. We’ve seen it everywhere, from fashion to food. Ironically, it’s often the biggest companies that try to seem the smallest. Take Starbucks. It opened a stealthy, “neighborhood” café in Seattle last summer, called 15th Avenue Coffee & Tea, complete with open mic nights, poetry readings, and minimal corporate signage. 15th Avenue even boasts the trendy, super low-fi “pour over” method.

Then they shifted gears with Via, a new spin on instant coffee–the joke of the java world–and by buying up Clover, maker of those infamously expensive, high-tech brewers. Now, Starbucks is rumored to be testing an industrial-size, 32-ounce offering for its iced drinks, putting it smack in truck-stop big gulp territory. Authentic? Hardly.

Which might be why Minneapolis-based Caribou, with only 500-some locations in the U.S., a distant second to Starbucks’s 11,000, has stepped in to claim the home-grown coffee crown. The brand’s redesign, produced by Minneapolis neighbors Colle+McVoy, features a hand-scribbled typeface, feel-good doodles, and a friendly, cursive new logotype. It might be a bit cute, but it’s a world away from their jittery, over-caffeinated, and down-right aggressive old logo–can’t I sleep at all? (below, top). (Not to mention, it was weirdly similar to old-style Cherry Coke.) Plus, the new caribou is jumping to the right instead of to the left. “Into the future”, Caribou says. At least they have a sense of humor.

Caribou Coffee

Caribou Coffee

[Via Brand New]

UPDATE In an email, Starbucks confirmed their new drink size, called the Trenta, but it’s actually 31 ounces, not 32.