A rebranding fail is more common than you might think.
In fact, “bad rebrands” happen all the time.
When a rebrand it is done right, the company will see an increase in sales from new and existing customers, while failed rebranding attempts lead to the complete opposite.
Consistent presentation of a brand has seen to increase revenue by 33%.
How often have we seen companies take themselves too seriously and miss the mark on rebranding?
Let’s start things off right.
Below is an example of a rebranding effort taking itself too seriously: Staples logo change
Staples: the office supply and back to school retailer goes all-out Michael Bay / Hollywood to unveil a logo that looks pretty much the same:
No matter the reason for a company rebrand initiative, you should always be aware of in order to avoid a “rebrand fail“:
- Your customers’ expectations
- The past campaigns
- The future potential outcomes
If you have decided that your company needs rebranding, then you should be aware of how others have navigated their journey.
In this article, we focus on well known brands that decided to rebrand and the unexpected outcomes as a result.
Do not worry, we also added some advice on how to avoid making the same mistakes.
35 rebranding fails and what we can learn from the mistakes of others.
Tropicana Branding Mistake
Orange juice has had an interesting ride through the years.
It started off as classic steeple of the American market, and developed into a global operator in the beverage landscape.
The beverage company, Tropicana, decided in 2009 to rebrand all elements of their well known product and packaging at once.
- Simpler Packaging
- Logo design and new color pallet
- New marketing campaigns
The result was a debacle for the Tropicana reband effort spelled disastrous consequences for farmers and the company.
Consumers failed to recognize the product on the shelves which led to a loss in sales.
It looked like a cheap generic brand that was too far from the recognizable product consumers regularly purchased.
Tropicana unleashed their white packaging that removed the orange itself from the visuals. The fruit was replaced with an orange-colored liquid in a glass.
Tropicana’s estimated sales dropped as much as 20% before they reverted back to their familiar design.
What can we learn from this rebranding fail?
Ask your customers about your brand.
Investigate what they expect and what they find appealing from your brand design.
Moreover changing too many brand elements at one time can scare your most loyal customers away.
With department stores all over the world, GAP is an international clothing retailer. In 2010, GAP changed the iconic logo that was emotionally bonded to every customer.
Some have speculated the GAP rebranding was so bad it was a PR stunt.
The new logo includes only the brand name and a little blue box on top of the last letter.
This change created outrage among loyal customers. Not even 6 days later the company decided to go back to the old logo design.
What can we learn from GAP’s rebranding fail?
Design a new logo that doesn’t throw out a long positive history.
Always keep in mind the emotional bond that customers have towards your logo.
Be also aware that sometimes changing a logo too much could result in losing the brand identity and even protests.
Kraft Marketing Fail
In 2009 the grocery manufacturer company, Kraft, changed its logo to give the company a new look.
However, newer markets are not eager to buy up their products.
As a consequence, Kraft, with almost 100 years of tradition designed a logo that fails to explain their identity.
Adding unnecessary elements to the Kraft logo design is almost never a good idea.
After only 6 months Kraft decided to go back and simply make some small changes to their old classic logo.
What can we learn from Kraft’s rebranding fail?
When starting designing a new logo for a big company; don’t change it completely.
Why reinvent something that works?
It’s sometimes better to simplify or improve an existing logo.
Mastercard Logo Change
In 2015, Mastercard decided to try to improve their logo design.
Mastercard has had one of the most globally recognized corporate logos in history.
Their assumption: people associated Mastercard with the two colored circles. By adding new elements to these circles, the recognition would still stick.
Before, the corporate name was prominently placed in the front and center. After rebranding, Mastercard dropped its name on the logo.
Apart from it being unnecessary design changes, the new Mastercard Logo also confused consumers.
The company eventually made a new logo but kept the 2016 design for corporate communications.
What can we learn from Mastercard’s rebranding fail?
Sometimes there is no need to change a logo if it works. Old companies have iconic logos that everyone can recall. Moreover adding extra elements feels unnecessary.
Mastercard walked its new logo back quite a bit. They opted to keep the intersecting circles and focus on the removal of the company name.
Pepsi Marketing Fail
Pepsi has a long history of rebranding since its main competitor is one of the most well-known companies in the world.
After 5 months of hard work, Pepsi’s designers came with a new logo. This rebranded logo resulted in a strong negative criticism.
Yet, the new Pepsi logo came with a $1M price tag. That may be one of the reasons why Pepsi has kept using the logo on their products to this day, even though there was such critique on it.
Pepsi has been in the spotlight for making risky moves with its advertising and branding, and has even been called tone-deaf.
Surprisingly, Pepsi was able to overcome the great social media backlash from this failed commercial that gained nothing but critique.
We are seeing this again during the COVID-19 pandemic, that brands are trying to use these large-scale events in their advertising.
[Related Article – The Best and Worst Coronavirus Ad Campaigns of 2020 ]
What can we learn from the rebrand failure of Pepsi?
Customers have an emotional bond with logos, even small changes to the design could result in confusion.
Always investigate what your loyal customers think about it.
The logo changed from an easy-to-understand logo with only the elements that point to their identity; to a plain logo consisting of one figure of an elephant, with no relation to the brand.
Unsurprisingly, the new logo led to much confusion.
With the new elements being difficult to understand, and not providing a proper explanation of the company, the new logo was a disaster.
What can we learn from the Animal Planet brand identity change?
Looking at both logos, the old one was easy to understand and consisted of elements that were easily relatable to the brand name. The new logo only led to confusion.
Thus, logos need to provide a clear link to the industry the company is in, with relatable elements to the brand.
Leeds United – Misses the Mark
Fans even made a petition to change back to the old logo.
No one can argue that in the football world, tradition and identity are two crucial factors in loyalty.
Leeds United failed in keeping this up with its redesigned logo.
What can we learn from this rebranding fail?
Tradition is essential when designing a logo for a football team.
Every team crest has a classic design. These usually only slightly evolve over the years.
But a completely a new logo doesn’t appear to keep step with the team’s historical claims.
Listen to your loyal fans and avoid unnecessary changes.
Syfy Logo Changes
Apparently, Syfy, the new name for the sci-fi TV channel, is also a synonym for sexual disease in Poland. Not the best marketing for a long-lasting company.
What can we learn from the failed SYFY logo evolution?
Always ask your target group about a change of name. It can have different meanings in other cultures or languages, of which some may be hidden meanings for the new generations.
That being said, the many claims they have gotten did turn into one of their favorite sources of entertainment.
In 2017, they redesigned their logo again, which you can see below.
Which of the three do you think is better?
Comcast Logo Change
In 2010 Comcast made the decision of changing names, hoping to show the customer that they had overcome their customer service issues.
A logo swap usually doesn’t result in people forgetting a history of bad practices.
By changing the brand identity Comcast’s hope was that people would quickly forget their previous negative experiences with the brand.
However, the brand could also have put more time and energy into improving customer support, company structure, or internal practices.
Since after all, changing the name of a company does not change its reputation!
What can we learn from Comcast’s corporate visual identity change?
Restore your reputation alongside spending money on changing a brand design.
Or, simply focus on listening to your customers to avoid drastic changes in your visual brand identity only to dump a bad reputation!
Royal Mail Logo Change
In 2001 the Royal Mail in the UK caught the idea of changing its name and logo.
While sometimes a new design can be seen as a good option, in this case, it turned into a leap into the void.
What was this company: toothpaste or mail delivery?
Consignia, the new name, was difficult to pronounce.
Furthermore, the lack of a structured PR campaign around the new Royal Mail logo made it difficult to follow.
More than anything, people were confused about what was happening.
After a short while, Royal Mail decided to go back to their old name and logo design, and leave Consignia on the side.
What are the takeaways from the Royal Mail rebranding fail?
Even though a company may think they chose an appealing and easy-to-pronounce brand name, it may turn into a challenge for their customers.
Especially when it regards an important company that has a diverse clientele, it is of even bigger importance to use simple, explanatory words.
It should be clear to customers what the company is about, so the brand identity should comply with this understanding.
After having had the same logo for 70 years, the oil company British petroleum decided to change its logo in 2000.
The price tag of this move?
It has been estimated that the development of the new logo cost BP $211M…
The new logo completely differs from the old one; the only consistent element is the color palette.
British Petroleum chose to incorporate Helios, the Greek god of the sun as main element in its new logo. With this move, the company wanted to portrait a renewed green growth mission.
But… British petroleum is everything but green. Just as an anecdote: in 2010 they were responsible for the largest marine oil spilling in history.
As you may know, a logo must represent a company in its vision and strategy.
Therefore, a petrol company should be very careful if it aims to appear environmentally conscious.
What can we learn BP’s new brand identity?
If your company is in the oil industry and produces the majority of pollution in the world, it is a tough shot to make the design resemble an environmentally conscious brand.
BP could have found a better message to deliver to their customers, that would not appear as fake.
Cardiff City FC
In 2012 Vincent Tan bought the Cardiff City Football Club.
In the main effort of giving the company an international look, Tan decided to change the logo from its traditional bluebird to a more appealing red dragon that refers to the Welsh heritage.
The outcome of this rebranding was a huge discussion on the Internet, with other football clubs mocking the new crest on Twitter.
On the wave of fans singing “we will always be blue” during every home game, the club eventually went back to their traditional 1927 bluebird crest.
However, Tan decided to not make it a complete return of the logo, by leaving a small figure of the red dragon at the bottom of the old logo.
What can we learn from this example of a rebranding fail?
As already said in the Leeds United crest, football fans are emotionally bonded to the team colors.
Changing these elements is therefore a bad rebranding choice.
Maintain your colour palette, and only improve the logo if needed.
WW is a world-known wellness company.
After having the same name for 55 years, Weight Watchers decided to change its name in 2018 to “WW”, which stands for “Wellness that Works”.
The company has been focusing on losing weight as its main motto.
However, with their rebranding campaign, WW left its customers confused. Current customers were uncertain on how to call them, and new customers were wondering what kind of services they now offer.
Nevertheless, WW decide to keep its new name until today.
What can we learn from WW example of a rebranding fail?
The name of your company must be explanatory of your company’s area of expertise.
If you change your company name, try to keep it easy to understand for both your current, and new customers.
During 2008 RadioShack felt the need to change to appear appealing to younger customers.
With the 2008 recession, RadioShack and many other shops were struggling to survive. Many of them even had to close down their stores.
[Related Article – 44 Companies started in a Recession ]
RadioShack decided to change its name from RadioShack to “The Shack”.
However, RadioShack decided to keep both names on the logo. If you’d ask us this is one of the most horrible rebranding choices possible, as “Radioshack The shack” does not make any sense.
In its attempt to attract a more diverse clientele with this rebranding move, RadioShack completely missed the mark.
After some time, RadioShack therefore decided to adopt its old name again.
What can we learn from this example of a rebranding fail?
Try to avoid being too pushing through on an image that does not fit your company.
Customers just want to perceive a brand as it is, not a failed attempt to appear like something else.
PwC is a company that offers professional accounting and tax services, and they are among the biggest firms in their field, including Deloitte, Tohmatsu, Ernst & Young, and KPMG.
In 2002 PricewaterhouseCoopers decided to change its name and logo to ”Monday”, which should resemble new and fresh starts.
However, PricewaterhouseCoopers used to operate based on a long tradition and a loyal customer base.
The rebranding campaign was met with a lot of confusion among the existing customers. This new name did not resemble the area of expertise well.
Therefore, after some time the company decided to change its name to ”PwC” which was easier to remember, and still had a clear link to the company history.
What can we learn from PwC’s example of a rebranding fail?
Do not change your name in something that may alienate your customers.
It is best to involve their opinions in the change, and else only just try to simplify it.
In 2009 the sweet chocolate confections company Hershey’s (or more formal: The Hershey Company) decided to rebrand itself.
Its new logo was perceived with quite the amount of critique and jokes on the Internet.
The main criticism given was: why change? They had been doing good for 120 years and were renowned for their traditions.
Hershey’s failed in their rebranding campaign.
They ended up with a logo that could look like a smoking poop. Not the first thing you want to think about when you buy chocolate 😅.
What can we learn from Hershey’s rebranding fail?
Try to look at your logo from different perspectives.
Sometimes the things you think are a cool design, could have different meanings for others…
Firefox is among the most loved and used web browsers.
Back in 2017, its mother company, Mozilla, decided to change the Firefox logo.
The new logo reads “Moz://a” which creative director Tim Murray commented with: “Because it has a portion of URL embedded in the middle of the logo, you know this must be some kind of internet company.”
A poor explanation for a well-known company that does not really need to explain its industry.
What can we learn from Mozilla Firefox’s rebranding fail?
Always ask yourself if your company even needs a rebrand.
Do not complicate your logo just for the sake of change.
NBC Universal is a mass media entertainment company.
It is worldwide renowned for its iconic peacock look-alike colorful logo.
In 2011 the company decided to move along with a new logo that completely erased the iconic elements, leaving only the written name of the company.
Some perceived it as difficult to read, besides it was considered too simple in its design. At the moment, the new logo is only being used for internal purposes.
What can we learn from this rebranding failure of NBC?
As already said, erasing an iconic element from the brand logo may confuse your customers.
Maintain your iconic elements, and only try to make your new logo easy to read and understand if you choose to change it.
They actually developed a marketing campaign around it, with a new design being revealed every day for a whole month.
On the last day of this campaign, everyone was expecting an outstanding new logo. Hoever, the chosen logo was just a slight change from the old one.
This rebranding campaign was therefore met with great disappointment.
Even though Yahoo!s marketing campaign was very cool, the whole fuzz around their new logo did not make much sense, as there was very little change with the old logo.
What can we learn from Yahoo! rebranding fail?
When you want to develop a marketing campaign around your new logo, keep in mind that your customers expect a perceivable change from previous logos.
The web platform DeviantART was made for artists to post their works, share it with other artists, and hereby boost their creativity.
During 2014, DeviantART felt the need to change its logo.
Since their industry is in design and art, you would probably expect an amazing new logo.
However, what did they came up with was just an unnecessary slicing of the brand name that makes the logo difficult to read.
Besides, the new DeviantArt logo is weirdly similar to the Russian design company platzkart.ru.
What can we learn Deviant Art’s example of a rebranding nightmare?
Be original. Copying from other designs can result in a disaster.
Remember also that it must be easy to read.
Usually, when it comes to the design of a city logo there is decided upon a classic, heritage based concept.
This was not the case for the rebranded logo of Cottbus, who developed a difficult-to-explain design in 2008.
Cottbus’ new logo was a mix of a broad color palette shaped without a distinct form, and hence was met with a lot of confusion.
As a consequence, fortunately, the logo was withdrawn and changed again.
What can we learn from the Cottbus rebrand fail?
A city’s logo usually shows the heritage of the city.
When designing a new city logo, its tradition must therefore be clearly visible.
Our advice is hence: never go for something too complicate when designing a city logo.
Seattle’s Best Coffee
With its rebranding campaign, Seattle’s Best Coffee wanted to give the company a new look. They chose for a more minimalistic look, which they thought would be perceived fresh and simple.
What Seattle’s Best Coffee, however, did not think of, was that for many people their new logo did not refer to a coffee company, but rather a blood donation center.
Moreover, the new logo has been described as looking impersonal and resembling a “discount” or “on-sale” sticker.
What can we learn from this example of a failed effort to rebrand?
As was the case for other rebranding campaigns as well, always remember to look at your new logo from different perspectives. Sometimes an attempt to attract a new audience may result in a huge failure, by making people perceive it in a completely different way.
Dr Pepper saw its sales for the diet beverage fall over time. Therefore, they decided on launching a new campaign together with the marketing department to bring the sales back up.
The new campaign was supposed to target men, however, the results turned out to be quite horrendous.
The new marketing was only targeting men, with the main slogan being “It’s not for women”.
Especially in the current environment, where equality and diversity are standing strong, this campaign was perceived as sexist, and excluding women.
What can be learned from this example of Dr Pepper’s failed rebranding campaign?
Excluding specific people is never a good idea!
Rather, emphasize the target group, without leaving the others out.
Black & Decker
Black & Decker is a well-known international company that sells power tools.
In 2014, they decided to change the logo. This rebranding was perceived with a lot of mixed feelings however.
Even though the logo change wasn’t perceived with sole enthusiasm, the company has been using the new logo up until now.
What can be learned from Black & Decker’s example of a rebranding fail?
If your old logo is iconic and easy to recognize you should maintain the important elements.
Changing important parts of the logo has a big chance of resulting in confusion among your customers.
Therefore: really do question if a rebranded logo is even necessary!
As the name suggests, Oxford Dictionaries is a company that operates in the dictionaries industry.
A new logo design came up during 2014 while the old logo was a classic design that belonged clearly to a company with a long tradition.
The new one looks more like a headphone company logo. Interestingly enough some of the elements are strangely similar to the Beats by Dre company logo.
What can we learn from this example of the Oxford Dictionary rebranding failure?
Originality is a must; do not copy from other brands.
Also, if you have it, remember to show your heritage in your logo.
In 2008, the bank company Capital One made the right decision of trying to give a new look to the logo design. It would have been a good idea if the design did not look like coming from 30 years ago.
The newly added swoosh with gradient color really does not give a fresh look to a company that bases all of its industry on trust and reputation.
What can we learn from this example of a rebrand fail?
Do not add unnecessary or old-fashioned elements in your new design.
London Olympics 2012
Every four-year Olympic games are held in a different nation. For each event, a different logo design is created to celebrate it. In 2012 the Olympic games were hosted in London, UK.
The logo design needs more than one look to be understood and definitely does not look like an Olympic logo.
Notably, this logo was described as many in the design world as “the worst Olympic logo since 1924.”
What can we learn from this example of global logo failure?
Complicate designs are difficult to recall. Keep it simple and easy to remember.
The private security company Blackwater Worldwide gained a lot of negative coverage after an incident in 2007 in Iraq, where 14 civilians were killed during an operation.
After a while, Blackwater decided to change its name first in Xe Service LLC and finally in Academi.
Unfortunately, multiple changes in the company’s name cannot completely restore your reputation.
What can we learn from this type of example of rebranding?
As obvious as it may sound, a rebranding campaign may not be sufficient to restore one’s reputation. Therefore, try to restore this reputation first, and then change the name and/or logo.
Nevertheless, sometimes one’s reputation cannot be restored.
Known since 1994 as “the copier company”, Xerox is an expert in its area. With the effort of trying to erase this from the customer’s mind, the company changed the logo in 2008.
The new design does not focus on the most important part which is the company name itself, but instead, they added a new visual element that has no direct relation to the company identity.
Moreover, the design looks like a mix of different already existing logos.
What can we learn from the example of Xerox’s rebranding efforts?
When you decide to rebrand, always remember which business you are operating in, and what the expected future of it is.
Avoid adding unnecessary elements. And, always ask yourself if your company really needs a change!
The retail company with shops mainly in the USA and Puerto Rico, JCPenney is well known. For some reason, JCPenney decided on changing its logo in 2011.
However, this rebranding attempt got met with great criticisms.
Just a few of these were that the new logo was difficult to read and understand.
What can we learn from JCPenney’s attempt to rebrand itself?
Make a logo easy to understand and to read.
And, as has been mentioned before, always wonder whether a rebranding campaign is even needed!
In 2011 the US-based online retail company Overstock.com Inc. made a major change to its brand by changing its name to O.co.
Borrowing the .co from Colombia, Overstock.com completely lost its company identity.
What can we learn Overstock.com’s failed rebranding campaign?
Logo designs have to recall the industry of your company. Changing the entire name in just one letter is not really explanatory.
The US-based web service company AOL changed its name to Aol. in 2009.
The company decided to replace the iconic triangle with a simple dot.
This logo change created nothing but confusion among the long-lasting customers who had an emotional bond with the old brand logo.
What can we learn from this example of a rebranding gone wrong?
As already said, customers may be emotionally bond to logo design.
Changing it completely can alienate them, so maintain iconic elements on your logo!
The telecommunication company Verizon changed its logo in 2015, as an attempt to take a fresh and original direction.
However, this rebranding campaign just meant writing the brand name in a simpler way, with the traditional checkmark moved to the end and displayed slightly smaller.
Nothing else to add, but that is simply boring if you ask us…
What can we learn from Verizon as an example of bad rebranding?
Avoid changing an iconic element into something simple.
And, when simplifying your logo, ensure that is doesn’t become boring.
The DVD rental company Redbox changed its brand logo in 2017.
The old logo gave the company a nice and silicon valley vibe look. However, the new logo was met with great criticisms.
The new logo was seen as a downgrade, with an element added that people did not get (the purple dot), and the letters ‘db’ making it complex and fuzzy to read.
It was a failure.
What can we learn from Redbox as a rebranding campaign gone wrong?
Ask first if there is a need for changing a logo, as modifications are risky, but may not always be necessary.
And, in case you do decide on a change, only add/eliminate elements that make sense.
The retail company Sears decide on changing its logo in 2019 in the hope of boosting their sales. What they did was keeping the original logo and adding an element next to the name.
This new logo does not necessarily display any originality, as the added element closely resembles the Airbnb logo. Moreover, such an element clearly does not give any hint of the company industry.
What can we learn from this example of Sears attempting to rebrand?
We cannot stress it enough: originality is a must, and you should avoid adding unnecessary elements.
Some of the main reasons for a company to go through a rebranding are; internationalization, consolidation of a brand, a bad reputation, or a new CEO.
Whichever is your case, you should pay attention to:
- Not underestimating the emotional bond customers may have with an old brand logo
- Being original in your design
- Ensuring that the new logo shows what industry the company is operating in, and where the company wants to go in the future
- Making the logo easy to understand and read
- Looking at the new design from different perspectives
Following these tips will help you to avoid being listed as a rebrand fail.
Do you think there are any companies that need rebranding?
Do you want more information or help with a rebrand? Try not to do the same mistakes and contact us at Klint Marketing!