9 Rebranding Examples of Good and Bad Rebrands
Rebranding is a powerful strategy that enables companies to modify their brand identity and image to better align with their goals and target audience. It has become increasingly crucial in the fast-paced, cut-throat business world where staying relevant, attracting new customers, standing out from rivals, and rejuvenating one's corporate image is vital.
To hammer home exactly why rebranding is so essential, let's look at some successful examples that have had a massive impact on the businesses concerned. By scrutinising these case studies, we can gain an insight into the power of rebranding – and how it can help a company flourish.
The Power of Successful Rebranding
The impact of successful rebranding on a company's performance and market position cannot be overstated. It can significantly improve brand recognition, generate greater awareness, build customer loyalty and trust, expand the customer base and market reach, and provide a competitive edge.
Take Facebook's rebranding efforts, for example. To show its expanded remit beyond social media more effectively, Facebook changed its name to Meta along with a new logo design and typefaces. This strategy for rebranding underscores how the company is moving toward the metaverse and keeping pace in a fast-moving digital landscape.
KIA provides another instance of rebranding triumph: when KIA made significant changes to signal its shift into electric mobility. That meant adjusting its slogan, logo, and even how it spelt out its name – all intended to reflect a commitment to sustainability (and EVs). The upshot? By successfully undertaking such an effort at KIA – which included coming up with some eye-catching ads meant to draw attention – the firm was able to carve out a place in the burgeoning electric car world. And that helped differentiate KIA from traditional automakers while appealing more forcefully to environmentally conscious shoppers.
These examples highlight how effective rebranding allows businesses to adapt nimbly enough to stay relevant amid evolving market currents and recast themselves or their products/services by creating powerful impressions among target audiences.
Good Rebranding Examples
Apple Inc.'s 1997 Rebranding under Steve Jobs
In the late 1990s, Apple Inc. was in deep trouble. On the edge of bankruptcy and struggling to find a place in an increasingly competitive tech industry, it needed to find a way out quickly.
That's when Steve Jobs stepped back into the frame. The co-founder had been away from Apple since 1985 but returned as interim CEO in September 1997 after the company acquired his new venture, NeXT Computer.
Jobs' return coincided with a remarkable brand overhaul that would not only turn around Apple's fortunes but also create one of the most valuable brands on Earth.
The campaign started with ‘Think Different'. But by early 1998, Apple switched tack: simplicity became its new mantra – both figuratively and literally. In addition to introducing cutdown versions of its Mac computers (such as iMac), it raised some iconic ads: TV spots featuring Jeff Goldblum talking about bugs (iBook) and dancers celebrating at various iMac launch events.
But there was something else at play here, too: the internet. As well as using it as an advertising medium for devices that could get online quickly without needing lots of ‘extras', such as dial-up modems or network cards (such as iMac), it dawned on Jobs et al. that every device in future would have to connect seamlessly to each other – laptops, phones and so on; hence their decision to add “i” before product names.
To see how important connectivity is fundamental nowadays, look around you now: smartphone makers Samsung and Huawei are making wireless earbuds that can also be charged up via their respective handsets; BT-owned Openreach has revealed plans for fibre-to-the-home broadband being added during house builds; plus cars increasingly have a built-in SIM card so they can send data directly between themselves and road infrastructure without needing Bluetooth or WiFi connections.
Fast forward to the present day, and Apple is the company that many outside the technology industry would most associate with innovation and quality. Its devices are among some of the easiest on the eye while primarily user-friendly.
Its current branding strategy is tied in with its products' aesthetic appeal: Apple's website created for iPad Pro explains how it used “robust features” such as video playback, 3D animations, “subtle parallax effects” (where a webpage or app looks like it has ‘layers', giving depth), plus interactive image galleries and illustrations.
“We always try to give people something they have never seen before,” says Apple.com/sa's intro blurb for iPhone X.
Nike's “Just Do It” Campaign
Nike, a leading global sportswear brand, is famous for its high-performance athletic products and the iconic ‘Swoosh' logo. One of the critical reasons behind Nike's success was an effective rebranding exercise that got underway with its well-known ‘Just Do It' campaign.
The campaign was launched 1988 to inspire athletes and ordinary people to pursue their goals. The message was clear: determination, motivation and pushing yourself are all central to achieving personal excellence. The motto became a catchphrase among sportspeople and broader society, creating an emotional bond between consumers and Nike.
The impact of the campaign was huge. It helped transform Nike into a global leader in sportswear by increasing brand recognition and customer loyalty towards it. At the same time, ‘Just Do It' ensured that when people thought about performance – professional athletes or everyday people wanting to lead healthier lives – they thought about Nike instead of rivals such as Reebok or Converse.
Nike's rebrand illustrates how having a relatable mission statement can create a strong brand identity while striking a chord with customers at an emotional level.
Starbucks' Logo Update and Expansion
Starbucks, the global coffee brand, has managed to maintain its industry-leading status through successful rebranding initiatives. One such example of this is Starbucks' 2011 logo redesign and expansion.
The logo overhaul was about reflecting Starbucks as a worldwide coffee brand. The company simplified the design by dropping “Starbucks Coffee” entirely and emphasising the iconic Siren figure. This update allowed Starbucks to sell more than just coffee and enter new markets and product categories while remaining recognisable as a brand.
This change and expansion underlined that Starbucks is all about high-quality coffee while making it easier for people outside of North America familiar with the brand to understand what it was about.
The move signalled continuous innovation and commitment to enhancing the customer experience – core values at Starbucks – while enabling adaptation to changing consumer preferences so that the business stayed relevant.
Old Spice's Humorous Rebranding
Old Spice, a brand that had long been associated with traditional men's grooming products, successfully rebranded in 2010 to appeal to a younger audience. The campaign was characterised by humour and creativity.
Old Spice's successful rebranding began with the introduction of “the Old Spice guy,” a charismatic and confident spokesperson who appeared in marketing campaigns for the brand. The humorous approach to rebranding helped Old Spice shed its image as an outdated product for older people and draw attention from younger consumers interested in more modern and edgy grooming products. Advertising featuring “the Old Spice guy” went viral online, generating millions of views on social media platforms like Twitter.
Old Spice's rebranding results were striking: Appeal among young consumers jumped significantly, as did sales and market share. The entertaining advertising drew new customers and generated significant exposure — making it clear that Old Spice was now top-of-mind when considering men's grooming products.
The success story of this transformation shows how humour can help introduce new audiences to a familiar brand while helping it maintain its leadership position.
McDonald's Shift Towards Health-Conscious Branding
Recognising the need to adapt to evolving consumer preferences and concerns about fast food, McDonald's, known for its iconic golden arches and popular menu items, implemented vital changes to shift toward a more health-conscious branding strategy.
McDonald's introduced healthier menu options such as salads and fruit to appeal to consumers seeking healthier options or more transparency regarding nutritional information or ingredient sourcing. These moves aimed not merely to give customers greater choice but also respond directly to societal shifting tastes.
The shift was significant for a business synonymous with burgers, fries and fizzy drinks since being founded in 1955 by Ray Kroc.
By showing it took its responsibility seriously as a purveyor of unhealthy food that is often blamed for contributing towards problems such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease – issues that are particularly acute in the US –the company sought both improved public perception and new customers who were increasingly putting their money where their mouths were when it came to diet.
Underlying all this was recognition from executives at one of America's most famous companies that eating habits were changing rapidly. What people wanted from food appeared radically different from what previous generations desired and what they did just a few decades ago.
While consumers still ate fast food in large numbers before millennials came along – there was no sign of them abating even after Morgan Spurlock's 2004 documentary Super Size Me revealed how damaging McDonald's fare could be – there began a shift around 2010 towards more “natural” ingredients among some shoppers.
Bad Rebranding Examples
Gap's Logo Change and Quick Reversal
The rebranding of a logo is often a delicate area, as Gap discovered the hard way in 2010 when it attempted to modernise its brand and attract younger consumers with a new visual look.
With the new logo, Gap wanted to shift towards a more contemporary, minimalist aesthetic. However, the redesign did not go down well with customers or even brand loyalists and was swiftly reversed.
Many people were unhappy with the change, saying it departed too far from what Gap had previously looked like. The company, therefore, returned to its old logo quickly, due not only to public dissatisfaction but also because it needed to maintain loyalty among existing customers.
The saga illustrates how crucial it is to undertake any rebranding exercise – such as designing a new logo – for marketers and others involved to deeply understand their brand's core identity and carefully handle that emotional attachment.
It also serves as an example of learning about respecting and building on existing brand equity when deciding on rebranding activities.
The Infamous “New Coke” by Coca-Cola
A lesson in the perils of rebranding is provided by Coca-Cola's 1985 introduction of “New Coke” – a new formula for its flagship cola designed to combat the growing popularity of Pepsi and appeal to younger consumers.
There was just one problem: people didn't like it. Loyal Coca-Cola fans expressed their outrage at the change, saying they felt conned and deprived, creating a public-relations disaster. The company quickly realised its error and reintroduced the original formula as “Coca-Cola Classic” because people wanted that. The New Coke fiasco highlighted how deeply some consumers can feel about the products they love – and, thus, how important it is not to trample on those feelings.
The experience of New Coke also serves as a reminder that companies should approach rebrands with caution — such moves can be risky when customer loyalty and brand equity are at stake. Understanding customers' emotional attachment to a brand matters when deciding whether to proceed with creeping change initiatives.
Tropicana's Packaging Misstep
In 2009, packaging was the fly in the ointment of Tropicana's successful rebranding effort. The company had introduced new packaging with a more modern and minimalistic design that aimed to appeal to a younger demographic and communicate fresh and contemporary.
But the redesign caused so much consumer confusion that sales declined because people couldn't tell what they were buying – primarily online, where shoppers can't touch containers for clues about their contents.
The fault wasn't Tropicana's alone: consumers felt passionately about the brand and its orange-with-a-straw motif, which had appeared on its packaging for years. The design team removed this iconography as part of an effort to give Tropicana a cleaner look. But something went wrong.
Consumers didn't just dislike the new look; some said they felt “betrayed” by it. A few weeks after launch, US unit sales at supermarkets fell by 20%. When Pepsico chief executive Indra Nooyi announced Tropicana was returning to its old packaging within three months of starting rollout, she said unhappy customers had called her directly to vent their anger.
Or there is this from an Adweek article published nine months later: “Tropicana Pure Premium… lost $137m (£78m) in revenue between January and February , costing supermarkets almost $33m in profit.”
As these numbers suggest, being too creative with your branding is sometimes worse than not being clever enough.
RadioShack's Unconvincing Rebranding
The rebranding of a business is no small feat. There are endless factors to consider, and the risks of getting it wrong can be enormous. RadioShack's attempt at rebranding as “The Shack” offers another cautionary tale.
RadioShack wanted to change its image from a tired electronics retailer to a more modern and tech-focused one. The company adopted the nickname “The Shack” in its marketing campaigns as part of this effort.
Unfortunately for RadioShack, this name didn't connect with customers or reinforce their view of the brand – that it was a reliable source for all things electronic.
One telling example of how dissonant this rebrand was coming after the new name was unveiled. People were confused about whether The Shack and RadioShack were separate entities or the same. This made it harder to relate The Shack to what they knew about RadioShack – bad news if you're trying to communicate with your target market.
Another problem was that people weren't engaged with The Shack as a phrase; enthusiasm levels were lower than hoped for, which meant fewer emotional bonds between consumers and the brand. Fewer emotional bonds represent less engagement – never good for sales figures or market share numbers.
This case study shows why any proposed rebrand needs to be thought through really carefully so that it aligns properly with your business's values, target audience and industry positioning.
Think hard about how your plans will go down with existing customers (and whether they'll even get what you want them to) and prospective ones before taking such a significant step forward.
Key Takeaways from Good and Bad Examples
Successful and unsuccessful rebranding attempts provide valuable lessons for companies contemplating a rebrand. Successful rebrands hinge on understanding who your company is and who it is trying to reach. Clarity and consistency are essential throughout the process. A successful rebrand should be consistent with the company's core values and hit home with its intended audience.
Also necessary: good research and testing before you pull the trigger.
Case in point: CVS stopped selling tobacco products and became CVS Health. This move was about aligning itself with consumers' lifestyles to get people to think of it as a wellness company that does more than sell medicine. It has worked because people want to feel good, too.
Adobe Creative Cloud streamlined its product offerings by renaming them, which underscored how essential it is to master organising your products (and then communicating with that organisation) so customers can find what they need quickly.
Yet another example is proving that successful rebrands require careful consideration of who you are (your brand), who you're targeting (your customers) and where things stand in your given vertical.
Implications like these could help ensure others enjoy success when they tackle a similar challenge.
- Kenney, Bill (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 240 Pages – 07/05/2023 (Publication Date) – Lioncrest Publishing (Publisher)
Rebranding is a potent approach that enables companies to adapt to dynamic market forces, draw fresh customers, and distinguish themselves from their rivals. Successful rebranding can lead to enhanced brand visibility, higher customer loyalty, and an improved position in the marketplace. Nonetheless, businesses should not decide to rebrand lightly – they need an intimate understanding of their brand identity, target audience, and industry landscape.
Businesses looking to navigate the process more effectively should consider examining successful or unsuccessful rebranding examples. Proceed cautiously when contemplating a change of identity; conduct thorough research beforehand; view how such changes might alter consumer perception or brand loyalty; make sure decisions are based on solid evidence rather than assumptions about what will work best for your company.
Rebranding is a continual process in business because markets shift and consumers' tastes change. Companies must always be alive to see whether their branding strategy meets market preferences and objectives. By staying close to what customers want from them (and being prepared if necessary), firms can exploit what remains an underused route-map tool – rebranding's power – which could help them stay relevant, win new audiences or grow in this intensely competitive world.
Last update on 2023-12-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API