Before embarking on a brand redesign, consider the following

Why some of this year’s rebrands are hitting—or missing—the mark.
article cover

Kim’s Convenience/CBC Television via Giphy

· 3 min read

Last week, Pepsi unveiled a new logo—its first rebrand since 2008—in time for the company’s 125th anniversary.

While Pepsi’s new look, as well as Burberry’s—revealed in February—seemed to be met with many positive reviews, other logo changes this year, like Nokia’s and New York City’s “We ❤️ NYC,” appear to have received a bit more backlash. Time will tell how Fanta fares.

While taste is subjective, there seem to be some consistencies in what brands should (or shouldn’t) consider before debuting a fresh look, especially since a logo change that doesn’t go so well can hit the bottom line.

1. Stick to your roots

Pepsi’s new logo seems to be resonating partly due to its elements of nostalgia, with the colors, fonts, and placement similar to those of its logos in the ’50s–’90s.

“This [logo] has a lot more energy, and it goes back to the heydays of Pepsi,” according to Jason Harris, co-founder and CEO of creative agency Mekanism, which has worked on rebranding efforts for brands like Jose Cuervo and LendingTree. “I think they did a great job with it.”

In Burberry’s case, many critics noted that the brand’s 2018 redesign to a sans-serif logo was a form of “blanding” that made it somewhat indistinguishable from other brands. With the most recent rebrand, Emma Barratt, global executive creative director at branding consultancy Wolff Olins, wrote in The Drum that Burberry is going “back toward what made the brand unique in the first place.”

2. Consider how much change is needed

For years, Tropicana and Gap were textbook examples of the risks that come with trying to modernize a beloved brand look, with the latter reverting back to its original logo after a mere week.

Get marketing news you'll actually want to read

The email newsletter guaranteed to bring you the latest stories shaping the marketing and advertising world, like only the Brew can.

Now we have “We ❤️ NYC.” One of the reasons Harris said the campaign failed to resonate is because of how far it strayed from the original “I ❤️ NY” design by Milton Glaser.

“It was a new placement for the heart, the heart was modern and fading, there was a new typeface, and it felt like something brand new versus just a minor update,” he said, adding that when he first saw it, he thought, “That just feels off.”

He wasn’t alone given the extensive backlash, with artist Ryan McGinness writing that if a change actually was necessary, it should have come down to changing the “I” to “we” and nothing else.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Harris said. “Unless you need to rebrand for a reason [like] business is in trouble or something’s not working, then you go ahead and do that. But I don’t think this was the right approach in this case.”

3. Wait it out

When complete redesigns roll out, it can sometimes be worth waiting for people to get used to the new look. (Change is hard, etc.).

Nokia’s new logo was part of an effort to leave its past as a phone company behind, which some seem to think it did: “If Nokia set out to signal to the world that they are undergoing massive change, then they have unequivocally done just that,” L.A. Corrall, VP and creative director at Collins, told Print magazine.

As Harris noted, some people were upset about Dunkin’ Donuts dropping “donuts” from its name in 2018, which the chain did in an effort to signal its increased focus on beverages. “That’s an example of just sticking with something,” he said. “Now you just think about it as Dunkin’.”

Get marketing news you'll actually want to read

The email newsletter guaranteed to bring you the latest stories shaping the marketing and advertising world, like only the Brew can.