10 of the Best and Worst Rebranding Attempts

By Alana Domingo, September 12, 2018

For businesses today, branding is everything. Branding defines your company’s purpose. It’s what positions you against the competition and fosters trust with your customers. But sometimes you need to freshen up your branding.

Things can happen that affect your brand’s perception. Maybe it’s bad press, a changing marketplace, a product acquisition, or a complete company evolution. In any case, that’s where rebranding comes in.

Every company takes a different approach when it comes to rebranding, and while some are successful, others are not. Let’s take a look at the best and the worst rebrands that have happened in recent years.

1. GOOD: Book by Cadillac

In 2014, Cadillac tried to get back into the automotive spotlight by rebranding themselves as a luxury brand for young buyers. They even moved the company headquarters from Detroit to Manhattan to be closer to their target demographic: burgeoning 30-somethings with enough income to drive a Cadillac.

Unfortunately, while these bold tactics helped improve Cadillac’s brand image, they didn’t lead to an increase of sales. So, the company decided to try something else: follow the footsteps of other Millennial-centric brands and adopt a subscription model.

Book by Cadillac

Called BOOK by Cadillac, this new sub-brand lets people essentially rent a Cadillac without long-term commitment. BOOK has attracted its coveted demographic, with the average member age being 41. Due to popular demand, the service also expanded beyond New York City to Dallas, Los Angeles, and Munich, with more cities expected to join. It took a few tries, but it looks like Cadillac’s overall rebranding campaign proved to be a step in the right direction.

2. BAD: tronc

Two years ago, media giant Tribune Publishing, which owns the Chicago Tribune and the New York Daily News, changed their name to tronc (yes, all lowercase). Short for Tribune Online Content, the new name was supposed to “capture the essence” of the company’s mission: to create and distribute premium content across all digital channels. It’s safe to say it didn’t.

troncSource: Wikipedia

People wasted no time roasting the name change. Casey Newton at The Verge said tronc sounded like “a Millennial falling down the stairs.” One Twitter user pointed out the new logo’s uncanny likeness to that of the Tron movie series. Some were quick to call out the rebrand as a gimmicky cover-up for the company’s failing business model.

In June 2018, an anonymous source from the company said that tronc will go back to their original name, now that their sale of the Los Angeles Times and other Californian papers has been finalized. It’s unclear if the backlash had any sway in that decision, but either way, after years of ridicule in an already volatile industry, it’s probably for the best.

3. GOOD: Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes celebrated their 19th anniversary with their first major rebrand since 2001. Designed by the firm Pentagram, the new look debuted at this year’s SXSW film festival.

Rotten Tomatoes logo timeline

Source: Adweek

What makes this rebrand succeed is the process behind its execution. Jeff Voris, Rotten Tomatoes’ Vice President, explained that the new branding needed to preserve the website’s essence that people have come to trust. So, Pentagram collaborated with actual members of the Rotten Tomatoes user community to critique the designs at each phase.

Related Post: How to Market to the Empowered Consumer

Over eight months, the team workshopped the brand materials until they formed the designs we see today. The updated Rotten Tomatoes logo is a modern take on the original, with the beloved tomato and splat illustrations still incorporated into the lettering. The single color logo and minimal vector icons are also optimized for use across all types of platforms, including web, print, mobile, and television apps.

4. BAD: Facebook

It’s been a rough year for Facebook. After being accused of promoting fake news, facilitating political interference, and mishandling user data amid the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook went on a virtual apology tour to reclaim its brand image by way of national television commercials.

Source: YouTube

“We came here for the friends,” the TV ad begins over somber music and a montage of Facebook posts, videos, and photos. “Then something happened. We had to deal with spam, clickbait, fake news, and data misuse.”

The narrator then assures us things are going to change: “From now on, Facebook will do more to keep you safe and protect your privacy … Because when this place does what it was built for, then we all get a little closer.”

In the court of public opinion, Facebook’s “apology” didn’t fare well. The attempt to rebrand as a place for friends seemed disingenuous after many users felt the platform violated their trust. Many people interpreted the message’s phrasing as an insincere non-apology than a genuine admittance of guilt. (Read: “We’re sorry we got caught, and we’re sorry you’re upset.”)

Apparently, investors weren’t thrilled either. On July 26, Facebook’s stock dropped a staggering 20% (approximately $120 billion) after their earnings report revealed they hadn’t met their revenue goals amid slowing user growth.

5. GOOD: IHOP

No one can forget the Twitter firestorm of June 2018, when IHOP, a pillar in the breakfast restaurant universe, announced in a cryptic tweet they were rebranding as IHOb, the International House of Burgers.

IHOb

Source: Twitter

Everyone, including over 100 brands and celebrities, joined the IHOb conversation. Fellow food companies like Wendy’s didn’t miss a chance to throw shade at the brand’s new persona. But IHOb didn’t want any beef (pun intended), they just wanted to share their new line of gourmet burgers with the world.

Related Post: How to Enhance Your Brand Using Social Media

Of course, this rebranding attempt was simply a clever marketing stunt—and it worked. The chain would later report their “rebranding” campaign garnered nearly 36 billion social media impressions and 20,000 news articles covering the change. More importantly, IHOP burger sales quadrupled following the name change, leading to a boost in lunch and dinner visits to the chain.

6. BAD: Best Buy

As one of the last big brick-and-mortar electronics retailers, Best Buy held out for almost 30 years before finally updating their branding. “It’s an evolution toward the future, and we’re really excited about that,” said the company’s Chief Marketing Officer, Whit Alexander.

However, Best Buy’s new logo doesn’t quite seem to capture that excitement. Although it remixes elements of the original 1989 wordmark into something more modern, the new design is pretty generic, following the same minimalist, sans-serif trend that other brands have recently adopted.

While the big blocky lettering remains, it no longer sits inside a tilted price tag. Instead, the shrunken tag acts as a pseudo-punctuation mark. Gone too is the brand’s muted navy color scheme, replaced by a brighter palette of blue and yellow similar to those used by Walmart and Ikea.

Overall, there’s nothing particularly remarkable about the updated logo, aside from its uncanny resemblance to a certain adult beverage company. We’ll have to wait and see if Best Buy’s rebrand was worth it in the long run.

Best Buy logo vs Bud Light logo

Source: The Verge

7. GOOD: CoverGirl

“Easy, breezy, beautiful.” Up until 2017, that was CoverGirl’s calling card. But as indie brands and influencers continued to disrupt the makeup industry, CoverGirl needed a fresh start to stay relevant.

Announced in October 2017, CoverGirl’s rebranding campaign overhauled nearly every aspect of their identity, from their logo to their product packaging to even their iconic tagline. “I Am What I Make Up” reads the new slogan, a nod to the empowerment generation. The updated wordmark and modern packaging has a touch of elegance that fits the brand nicely alongside more prestigious brands.

CoverGirl rebranding

Source: Ariella Gogol

CoverGirl has also signed on a diverse group of models for their bold new campaigns. Spokespeople now include actress Issa Rae, beauty influencer James Charles, celebrity chef Ayesha Curry, and 69-year-old model Maye Musk.

Related Post: Why Brands Need to Be Extra Careful When Pairing With Celebrities

But CoverGirl’s most ambitious rebranding stunt is yet to come. The brand plans to launch a 10,000 square-foot flagship store in New York City’s Times Square that will cater to younger shoppers looking for a hands-on experience. According to the press release, the shop will feature an interactive beauty play room, on-the-go services, full service makeup application, and more.

8. BAD: Uber

Uber’s 2016 rebranding campaign is a perfect example of what happens when a multi-billion dollar company caters their entire brand identity to the whims of a single person. Long story short, it doesn’t end well.

Instead of hiring an outside agency, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick decided to work directly with a small internal team, which meant he was involved in nearly every aspect of the rebrand, despite having no background in design. While others on the team created new concepts for review, all design choices were finalized by him.

The rebranding campaign centered around “bits and atoms,” a concept originally described in a 2013 blog post written by Kalanick. According to a press release, the bits and atoms theme aimed to connect Uber’s rideshare technology (bits) with the humans that make up the platform (atoms).

Uber 2016 rebranding

Source: Uber

The resulting brand materials didn’t exactly convey that idea. At the center of the new app icons were abstract shapes, the “bits,” that differed between the rider and driver apps. In the background were patterned designs, the “atoms,” whose colors changed depending on a user’s geographic location.

Upon its launch, the rebrand was met with a ton of backlash. Some users couldn’t find the Uber app on their phones since the icon was so unrecognizable. Others criticized the CEO’s heavy-handed involvement, saying the design team should have consulted with actual riders and drivers before forging ahead with their decisions. Coincidentally, the company’s head of design quit immediately following the launch.

The rebrand didn’t last very long, as a slew of bad press ousted Kalanick in 2017. Once new leadership took over, the company reverted back to their design roots.

9. GOOD: Chobani

For a yogurt company, Chobani’s old branding was pretty unappetizing. Harsh geometric typography and stark packaging made their products look bland, when in reality, their food was far from tasteless. Luckily in late 2017, Chobani underwent a major in-house rebrand that ultimately distilled the company’s mission of making delicious, nutritious, natural, and accessible Greek yogurt into something equally palatable.

Chobani rebranding

Source: Brand New

Aesthetically, the rebrand plays off the all-natural trend without feeling too trendy. Packaging for each of Chobani’s product lines features clean typography and painted illustrations, a big difference from their original stock photo feel. The colors stick to a palette of muted earth tones, like forest green, cream, and warm brown.

Related Post: How Colors Affect Your Marketing

Chobani seems to have captured a new attitude with this rebrand, one that definitely sets them apart from other mainstream yogurt brands on the market. And the change is strategic, too. In the near future, Chobani hopes to expand beyond yogurt into other food-related ventures, although it’s still unclear what that means. The rebrand is that first step.

10. Bad: Tropicana

Finally, one from the vault. In 2009, Tropicana underwent a rebrand that completely revamped their product packaging. Little did they know their expensive endeavor would cost them nearly $33 million in sales and hurt their relationship with loyal customers.

Tropicana rebrand

Source: The Branding Journal

When the new products hit store shelves, customers who usually gravitated to the giant orange with the straw found themselves lost. Its replacement, a high-quality photo of juice, completely skewed customers' perception of the brand, so much that they thought they were buying a generic store juice instead of the Tropicana they loved.

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After sales took a 20% nosedive, Tropicana quickly reverted back to their original design less than a month later, but the damage was done. If anything, their experience serves as another testament to that valuable life lesson: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

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Tags: Rebranding

Alana Domingo

Alana Domingo

Alana Domingo is the former Junior Content Writer for Anura. Born in Philadelphia but raised in Delaware, she attended Temple University and earned a BA in Communication Studies, concentrating on contemporary media environments. When she's not working, you can usually find her playing The Sims, reading comic books, and taking care of her three pet frogs. More Articles by Alana Domingo