Five rebrands that didn’t work, and why
Because all the money in the world can’t make a design misstep look good.
A rebrand is an anxious time for business owners: what will it say about their brand, how much will it cost and – crucially – how will customers take it? So, you can imagine the mortified looks when a costly change of positioning (and we’re talking *millions*) doesn’t take off – or even fails so spectacularly you wonder why they bothered changing things in the first place. Here are five of the most notoriously negative rebrands.
Staple of hotel breakfast buffets, Tropicana juice cartons had a sleek makeover in 2009 that swapped its hallmark logo and lush fruit imagery for a pared-back but ultimately ubiquitous redesign.
Consumers failed to recognise the cartons as the brand they’d become accustomed to and domestic sales dropped by around 20%, hitting both the juicemaker and the farmers who supply it. Observing the poor reception, Tropicana swiftly reverted back to the original branding and pretended the whole thing never happened.
Sometimes it’s adding elements, rather than taking them away, that causes the issue. Mastercard did the opposite of Tropicana and made their branding design more complex, adding in a new element between the two iconic circles that have become synonymous with the credit card issuer.
The redesign was not well received, although the logo did need an update: Mastercard simply made the circles intersecting block colours, giving their infamous logo a more contemporary edge. The design with three circles is now used for its corporate communications instead.
The weight management company decided to do away with not just its old logo but its entire identity when it rebranded in 2018. The CEO said the ‘WW’ insignia doesn’t stands for anything, but the ‘Wellness that Works’ strapline might be – according to some – a cynical ploy to pivot from its traditional dieting model into something that promotes more sustainable changes to health and lifestyle. By overhauling the design into something simpler, and adopting a darker shade of blue than its previous branding, many felt WW’s identity looked too ubiquitous and corporate: not ideal for a product that’s designed to be approachable, accessible and concerned about the health and wellbeing of its users on a personal level.
Like Tropicana, this *ahem* slimmed-down reimagining of the Weight Watchers identity both won and lost consumer support, with many left confused as to what services the company would now be offering them. Customer concern wasn’t enough to deter WW though – the brand has stuck by its new identity to this day.
When most people think of accounting powerhouse PriceWaterhouseCoopers, they thankfully don’t remember the failed 2002 attempt to rebrand its consulting arm to Monday. Achingly on-trend at the time, it was perhaps too cool for its own good, seeming a great distance from the altogether corporate functions of the business.
The brand was met with unsurprising derision and, despite its parent firm’s continued support, it was bought by IBM and the Monday identity was expunged by the merger. The twist in the tale is that PriceWaterhouseCoopers then decided to rebrand their own identity, producing the actually-quite-sensible PwC logo– because who really ever said the name in full anyway?
Whether you’re a creative or a brand owner, sometimes your desire for a change in design can turn a straightforward process into a parody of itself. Take the example of Pepsi, which spent a considerable amount of money with agency Arnell to turn its iconic logo into something… well, basically exactly the same. Apparently, the agency’s rationale for the reimagined logo was extensive and abstract, which makes the near-identical design of the ‘rebranded’ identity rather perplexing.
Perhaps reassuringly, the public seemed largely apathetic to the rebrand – possibly because Pepsi’s subsequent advertising missteps were so infamously ill-judged.