Today’s best-known symbol is the green straw of Starbucks

Dan Brown fans know how powerful symbols have been throughout history. Scholars have studied everything from the markings on cave walls in France and Romania, to the Egyptian hieroglyphics inside the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Putting aside the 30,000-year-old, European caving drawings, civilisations of the past two centuries have created symbols that produce visceral responses. The Confederate flag, the sickle and hammer, the swastika. Then there are the signs of goodness: the traditional Peace sign, and the “S” on Superman’s chest (or for those Kryptonians – not an “S” but the symbol of “hope”).

We live in a world of 200 countries and each has its own symbol: a flag.

Nationalistic and religious iconography aside, citizens of the world are bombarded with today’s version of the symbol: the logo. The most powerful are those that spread name-brand recognition amongst the consumer-buying public: Facebook’s lowercase f; Apple’s bite-eaten piece of fruit; Nike’s swoosh; Twitter’s bird; Rolex’s crown; Disney’s castle; the golden arches of McDonald’s; Gucci’s double G; and Ferrari’s black prancing horse.

These logos help spread the name of the company, but that’s all they do.

So what then when a company creates a utensil that is essential for the public to consume the business’s core product? What can be said of that utensil that becomes more famous than the company’s logo? When its appearance is synonymous with the brand? Surely those are even more powerful than a one-dimensional logo.

There are two utensils that are more powerful than the logos of the brands they represent. The small pink spoon of Baskin-Robbins, and the green straw of Starbucks.

According to baskinrobbins.com, the “iconic pink spoons were created with the belief that people should be able to try any of their many flavours without cost”.

The green straw is more prevalent than the Seattle-based coffee company’s logo. In movies and television shows as well as on social media platforms, the Starbucks double-tailed mermaid logo is rarely seen, but the green straw is everywhere. From the Kardashians, to genuine film stars, the green straw in omnipresent as the paparazzi shoot these men and women as they walk out of gyms and yoga studios across parking lots while carrying their Starbucks drink.

Sagi Haviv, a partner at the New York graphic design firm Chermayeff & Geismer & Haviv, was quoted by the BBC in May 2015 as saying that “a good logo, a good trademark, gains meaning and power over time”.

That is definitely the case when it comes to the Starbucks straw.

Michael Jabri-Pickett Speechwriter • Editor • Journalist