Get sloppy when rebranding, customers are confused. Nail it, and customers (and the financial spreadsheets) are happier than ever and more loyal than a Labrador retriever.

In the competitive business landscape, logos are so much more than just aesthetic symbols.

Treating them like lipstick, as in “Which color is my favorite?” is the most common crime against a strategic (and successful) rebrand.

One one side, logos are the face of a company’s identity, greeting the world with a visual statement.

On the flip side, a logo is that “gold standard” that represents a set of values, a set of expectations, and something that reflects our sense of self.

A misstep in this critical element leads to a communication breakdown, much like speaking the wrong word in a country you’re visiting that insults someone’s mother instead of saying, “Those flowers smell lovely.”

Done well, a rebrand attracts and builds consumer interest, distinguishes itself from competitors while influencing stakeholders and investors, and effectively communicates the brand’s essence across multiple forms of media.

There are two aspects to consider a rebrand:

  1. The logo itself and how well it moves the brand forward while differentiating against the noise in that market, and
  2. How well is this rebrand and new logo incorporated in all the places it appears?

How Powerful Is a Logo in Shaping Consumer Perceptions and Brand Identity?

Let’s take a look at one of the more cringe-worthy rebrands: The Gap rebrand of 2010.

It was such a badly executed logo transformation – it was quickly reversed due to overwhelming public backlash.

How bad and tone-deaf was it? The logo lasted a mere 6 days before they reversed course.

Some estimate that this cost the company around $100 million.

Tropicana’s 2009 redesign serves as another cautionary tale.

It comes down to five points every brand should note:

  1. Goodbye, memorable orange; hello, anonymity. Tropicana’s ‘makeover’ turned their once-iconic packaging into something anyone would mistake for a no-frills store brand.
  2. Ditching their classic arched logo, Tropicana’s new look was as bland as a cardboard box. It screamed generic, not premium juice giant.
  3. Instead of flaunting their brand, Tropicana opted for a ‘what’s-inside’ visual that just left customers scratching their heads. Talk about an identity crisis.
  4. This branding blunder wasn’t just a faux pas; it was a financial faceplant, with a jaw-dropping 20% nosedive in sales.
  5. The cost of this design disaster? A cool $137 million flushed down the drain in less than two months forcing the company to revert to its original design, a costly lesson in understanding brand equity.

From the Supermarket to the World Stage

In the supermarket aisle, Kraft Foods’ 2009 logo revision, meant to signify change, ended up conveying confusion: a classic case of a rebranding effort that misjudged its audience’s attachment to the existing brand identity.

Six months of relentless flak after the unveiling, Kraft Foods sheepishly crawled back to their classic logo restoring its place as one of the most memorable and known brands worldwide.

While not a rebrand, the London 2012 Olympics logo, at the hefty investment of $625,000, was intended to be dynamic and modern and part of the legacy of a fresh new look every 4 years.

Instead, the London Olympics logo ended up alienating the very audience it sought to captivate.

Many considered it a visual misfire, demonstrating the fine line between innovation and unusual design.

Some got into religious disputes saying the word “Zion” was hidden in the symbol.

Others even said the logo resembled the Simpsons siblings – Lisa and Bart causing considerable disruption amongst its audience instead of uniting everyone in celebration of this global event.

Disruption should occur to awaken customers, build affinity and provide clear brand differentiation.

Disruption is not what one should cause amongst its customer base.

Simply put, it failed to connect and unite the venue on the world stage: London, with its rich history and culture, seemed like a distant connection to the rebrand with its quirky shapes and colors.

For whatever reason, 2012 seemed to be the year many rebrand failures happened.

Two of the most dismal examples were JCPenney turning into JCP (possibly worse than Kentucky Fried Chicken becoming KFC) and the other was Arby’s rebrand.

Besides being horrendously executed, they made no sense.

And their execution was inconsistent and short-lived. Other rebrands have also been equally inconsistent: Caribou Coffee or Radio Shack and others.

None of these rebrands were ever fully exported to their entire line of stores or franchises and lacking that consistency, they took a bad start and only made them worse.

The Missing Ingredient in Rebranding Failures

These examples underscore the critical role logos play in branding. In an era where digital presence is paramount, logos become silent yet powerful ambassadors across marketing platforms, e-commerce, social media, SEO, and website optimization.

A well-designed logo acts as a keystone in building brand recognition and trust. It’s not just about visual appeal; it’s about crafting a symbol that embodies the essence of the brand’s story, resonates with the target audience, and stands out in a crowded market.

And this is the pivotal point: a well crafted brand story will smooth the pathway and journey to introducing the new (or refreshed) face of the brand.

Sometimes, people don’t welcome change.

Done brilliantly, people (having a context for the world that’s coming) will welcome the new brand with open arms because a new context, a new reframe, instantly makes it clear why the previous identity has become outgrown.

For businesses, C-level executives, SMBs, and startups, the message is clear: a logo ushers in the future.

But a brilliant story and brand narrative lays the foundation for why the rebrand is being done.

But seeing first-hand how this can done with minimal infighting and food fights, everyone involved must understand that a rebrand is a rite of passage into the next exciting chapter, and not merely change for change sake.

It’s the difference between mere survival and thriving success in a market driven by image and perception.


By David Brier