17 Rebranding Failures and How Much They Cost (Updated: March 2021)
If a company ends up on our list of rebranding failures, chances are the financial repercussions for that said company have been huge.
Branding any company is a huge challenge.
Rebranding one of the world’s biggest companies is a project that many a design or branding agency would love to take on.
Of course, when done right, rebranding can be incredibly beneficial to companies. There are also times where rebranding may actually be necessary.
However, with massive projects comes massive risk and responsibility, and at times, even the best branding agencies, consultants or strategists get it wrong.
In this post, I’m going to take a look at some of the biggest rebranding failures in recent memory.
A lot of these designs happened and then, mercifully, somebody pressed [CMD]+[Z] (or [CTRL] + [Z] for all of you Windows users) and reversed the whole process.
Thankfully things don’t just disappear into the abyss these days, even though a lot of these brands would prefer it if they did.
That means we can dig into the following rebranding failures and see exactly what went wrong.
If you’d prefer, we also have a video that breaks downs one the rebranding failures mentioned here. Check it out:
For me, the following companies completely messed up their rebranding efforts. Maybe they should have looked at this post when considering rebranding their company.
Let’s dive into these company rebranding examples, investigate them, and see how much they cost:
When we talk about rebranding failures, it doesn’t get much worse than Weight Watchers awful new brand identity that was not only hated by designers, but worse than that, its customers!
Back in 2019 Weight Watchers decided to make a major change to its brand image – repositioning itself from being Weight Watchers to instead Wellness and Wellbeing.
This change was done in the wake of the online ‘body positivity’ movement, as it believed ‘Weight Watchers’ had too many negative connotations attached to it. As a brand, they wanted to broaden their clientele remit, inviting not only people who want to lose weight, but also people wanting to make healthy life choices!
However, sadly for Weight Watchers, this brand overhaul didn’t go to plan! Despite the very uninspiring brand image, which we will get to a little later, the new brand identity drastically impacted the company’s bottom line, with a stock market earnings of less than half. Not what you want from a rebrand.
While we don’t know how much the rebranding process and campaign cost the company, we do know how much it cost them in terms of memberships and revenue. In the second half of 2018, they reported a loss of 600,000 members, with dismal new membership numbers going into 2019.
So where did it all go wrong?
Despite the very uninspiring and boring new logo, ‘Weight Watchers’ biggest slip up in its rebrand has been its name!
The brand has been known as Weight Watchers since it was first launched back in 1963 – and has since become an instantly recognisable name in the weight loss world! Changing that was a huge gamble and one which did not pay off.
The idea however of aligning the brand around healthy wellbeing I feel was a good one, but not one that needed reflecting within the brand name. After all you have to consider your primary audience and the vast majority of people joining Weight Watchers are doing so to lose weight!
Weight Watchers is a great example of how when re-bands are not carefully thought out they can have damaging financial effects on a business’s growth. Weight Watchers, realising this the hard way have since reintroduced it’s brand name back into its identity.
When it comes to brands, Mastercard are about as big as they come. It is one of the biggest financial companies in the world, their brand being globally recognisable at a split second’s glance.
Which is why their short lived rebrand back in 2006 caused a lot of confusion amongst its customers. And it certainly didn’t make our “best financial and banking brands” list!
In terms of getting rebrands wrong, this was about as bad as it gets. Mastercard managed to transform an iconic logo into a confusing and unsightly mess, damaging its brand image in the process.
Even worse, it cost them a whopping $1.5 million for this design (part of a near-$10 million for the branding as a whole). I mean, if you’re going to drop that much money on a rebrand, it had better be good, right?
Normally when iconic companies do rebrands they often strive to distill their brand image down to the bare essentials as this normally helps to improve brand recognition. However Mastercard managed to take an already minimal logo and transform it into something that is cluttered and messy by adding a third interlocking circle that poorly utilises gradients and shadows. All this led to a very visually unappealing and hard to look at logo, detracting from its original recognisable look.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Mastercard was well overdue a brand refresh from its previous 1996 design, as even though it was simple, it could have been better – in particular the way the shapes interlock and its type. However a brand refresh is exactly what it should have been! Small tweaks and changes was all the logo needed to help improve its brand image and not a major design overhaul.
Mastercard later decided to only use this new logo on corporate worldwide communications, and opted to keep their existing brand image (no surprise there).
Luckily, in 2016 Pentagram came to the rescue and did the job right, realising that the logo was so recognisable in its own right, that it didn’t even need the support brand name on most communications.
British Petroleum (BP)
BP have had a torrid time of late.
In the year 2000 they replaced a strong logo that had been with their company for 70 or so years and replaced it with their current logo design, the “Helios” – the name of the Greek sun god.
The only element of the original British Petroleum logo that the new design retains is the colour palette.
BP used to have a concise logo with a small footprint, when they rebranded, the footprint increased and the logo lost it’s timeless appeal. Timelessness is vital to create an effective logo design.
By footprint, I mean the size that the logo occupies in the space it sits. As you can see, the original shield design takes up less space, and would be less awkward to use in context.
Because of the addition of the BP to the top right of the helios, it increases the footprint of the design, meaning it takes up more room, and I’d imagine it’s a challenge to work with.
The Helios logo is meant to symbolise and represent the company’s green growth strategy by taking on the form of a sun. However, when it boils down to to it, there’s nothing green about drilling oil and it seems as though BP are trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes. It would have been better to stay away from this sort of connotation altogether.
After the uproar over BP’s strange new logo choice had truly died down, the company caused global outrage with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. On April the 20th 2010, BP were responsible for what is considered the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill thrust BP back into the media spotlight for all of the wrong reasons, even prompting Greenpeace to challenge people to come up with “a new logo design” for BP, relating to the spill. Some of the results were highly creative, a selection is shown below;
BP are one of the world’s largest companies and they probably won’t ever revert to their original brand identity. With the largest marine oil spill of all time associated with BP, they’ll be looking to reduce the fallout from the spill and make some positive PR moves as soon as possible.
We love TGI fridays – along with their great American style dinner food, they also dish-up a tasty brand image too!
TGI Fridays have been around since 1965 and have always really understood it’s target demographic – appealing to young and rebellious hipsters with its cool restaurants.
However 2020 was not just a disastrous year for COVID, it was also unfortunately a disastrous year for TGI Friday’s latest rebrand.
Now don’t get me wrong, the new rebrand which launched last year isn’t overly awful or visually offensive and is actually still recognisable as being ‘TGI Friday’s. It’s just simplified down and it still has an American dinner style vibe.
However what we really need to ask ourselves, is what does this latest refresh actually bring to the table? The answer is nothing in our eyes. When you have a brand redesign you need to make sure you have a clear goal for what you want to achieve, to help further develop the brand image. Sadly for me however, this just doesn’t add anything.
Their latest logo has reintroduced its ornamental style border, bringing back its classic American look which had previously been ditched in its 2013 redesign. However for me this is an element that just isn’t needed and is an element that is adding extra clutter back into the brand mark.
Another error which has been made is the logo’s attempt to distill down the brand name to simply Fridays. For me and many other people when you refer to it’s restaurants, you refer to them as ‘TGI’s’ or ‘TGI Friday’s’. By reducing the name down to Fridays it makes for a slightly confusing brand image.
I don’t think this latest rebrand will be hugely detrimental to TGIs sales. However it will have cost them a huge amount of money to design and implement the new branding across all its restaurant chains, and for me it has taken some small steps back on the brand evolutionary scale instead of forward.
Makes you question if rebranding was even worth it at all!
Oh Cardiff City “Bluebirds”, you make me laugh. When new owner Vincent Tan took over, he decided to change Cardiff City’s brand identity as much as possible.
The Premier League football team once known as the Bluebirds, always had blue kits and a blue logo. When Mr Tan took over, he decided to change the kit from blue to red, along with replacing the blue bird on the logo to a red dragon. Fair enough, he was playing up to the Welsh flag, but it just didn’t make sense.
He’s went against one of the fundamentals of rebranding, which is alienating your audience.
So the Bluebirds are now playing in red, with their kit logo being a red Welsh dragon. Are they now nicknamed the Red Dragons? No. To add to the confusion, Vincent Tan decided to let the team keep their original nickname and added a small blue bird to the bottom of their predominately red logo. Crazy times for Cardiff City.
Vincent Tan had to plough an estimated £100 million into the football team’s rebrand. Along with the monetary cost, the rebrand also cost Cardiff City the faith and trust of a selection of their newly confused fans.
Since publishing this post, there have been a huge amount of footballing rebrands and logo updates.
These include Everton, who rebranded, then changed it back. And Leeds United, who we were too shocked to feature on the blog!
Now I think rebrands are extremely important – they can totally revamp a business or organisation and make them stand out within their market. Football clubs however are a little different.
Leeds United, like many other football clubs, have a rich history and heritage behind them, which is something its fans really buy into! However part of that history is unfortunately the logo.
For a football club, its logo is its coat of arms and changing it can be a very risky move!
One which unfortunately has not paid off for Leeds United – whose latest rebrand faced extreme backlash from its devoted fans. Over 77,000 people signed a petition to boycott the rebrand, causing a PR nightmare.
Now what we have to ask ourselves here is, was a rebrand really needed? The answer is…probably not! In our view, if something isn’t broken then why fix it?
Leeds United could have just had a brand refresh and tidied up its logo to give it a more modern feel, however the full rebrand was just a disaster. They have taken a coat of arms style logo and butchered it into something that fans describe as a cheap looking ‘Gaviscon’ style logo.
Now although this was a PR nightmare, in terms of actually damaging sales and profits of the club were minimal – fans won’t stop watching are going to games just because of a badly designed logo. However, if this was in another sector, then the damage could have been catastrophic!
Luckily Leeds United’s marketing department eventually saw the light, and decided to change their mind from full brand overhaul, to a small brand refresh.
If Cardiff City’s rebranding is any indication, the price of rebranding could very well have cost Leeds United anywhere in the hundred million ballpark.
During the busy Christmas period of 2010, Gap launched a new logo design and rebranded their company to suit. They did so with no warning. The original Gap logo, a design that had served the brand for more than 20 years, disappeared from without warning and was replaced with the new logo – the word Gap in a bold font and a square, fading diagonally from light blue to dark blue. The change was no internet hiccup, it was permanent – or so it seemed.
And because of the change they made, they didn’t benefit from rebranding at all.
A small buzz began to reverberate around the design community, quiet sniggering about the new Gap logo. Soon, the internet was alive with activity and it was clear that people didn’t like the new design. Gap responded positively, revealing that their new logo design was in fact the first stage of a crowd sourcing process that allowed them to reinvent the company (proving again why you shouldn’t crowd-source your design projects.)
Over a decade later, Gap’s failed rebrand is still cited as one of the best examples of how not to rebrand. Not the legacy they were hoping for, we’re sure!
To cut a long story short, Gap performed possibly one of the fastest branding turnarounds of all time when they reverted to their original design, just six days after putting their new logo out into the public. There are many things that can be learned from Gap’s branding disaster and the agency that provided their branding and web design services. We might just have to write that article in the near future!
Estimated CostThe Gap rebrand was estimated to have cost them $100 million, not the price tag you’d expect for something that could’ve been cobbled together using WordArt.
American bank holding company Capital One is supposed to be one of the country’s top leading credit card companies. Unfortunately, their brand identity screams anything but that! Their current brand identity was redesigned way back in 2008 and has stayed with the brand ever since.
Even when the rebrand was launched back in 2008, it looked like something that had leapt straight out of the early 1990s with its dated style. It is a complicated mish mash of colours, type, gradients and icons, all mixed together into one terribly dated looking identity.
So why keep it that long? We are asking ourselves the exact same question too.
Capital One’s branding prior, albeit a bit boring, was calm, clear and professional – all qualities that you look for in a bank. However the incorporation of a new boomerang ‘swoosh’ in its awful bevelled gradient, just serves to over complicate the logo.
Similarly to Capital one, Citibank had a budget for the brand overhaul was pegged at almost $10m, with the design of the logo itself making up $1.5m of that. Considering that was back in 1998, the cost would be considerably higher now!
When adding elements into a logo, you need to make sure that absolutely everything there has a purpose and does a job in better portraying your company or organisation. With Capital One, the addition of the boomerang just doesn’t scream banking at all!
A lesson to take away from Capital One’s branding is to realise when something isn’t working! 13 years is an extremely long time to have a dated looking brand image and they should have been through another brand refresh years ago! Unfortunately If people see dated branding, they will also see a dated business!
For all that it is one of the biggest social media networks on the internet, Facebook certainly hasn’t been able to catch a break these last few years.
From a privacy violation lawsuit to accusations of meddling in the 2016 US election, it’s not surprising that the multi-billion dollar corporation would be looking for a way to refresh their image.
Unfortunately, their 2019 corporate logo change definitely wasn’t the way to go.
Eager to differentiate Facebook the company from the Facebook app, they rebranded themselves from Facebook to FACEBOOK. Confused? Yeah, so were a lot of people when it was announced. After all, it was the same word, just written in all caps.
Furthermore, in an attempt to add clarity over the other Facebook owned social media brands (Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger), they also introduced a new ‘custom typography’ that would have different colours, depending on which app it represents. For example, on Instagram, it appeared in Instagram’s gradient colours. This feature has since dropped away, however.
However, the rebrand still begs the question; why was this even necessary? Especially since Facebook is remaining just Facebook on the website and app, with the classic blue and white colour scheme remaining firmly in place.
The unveiling of Facebook – sorry, FACEBOOK’s new corporate branding was met with derision across social media and the press, with many calling it out of touch. Twitter was full of memes and jokes at FACEBOOK’s expense, calling the rebrand an attempt to connect with the ‘Boomer’ demographic because they’re the only ones still using the app.
While no information could be found regarding how much this rebrand cost, and undoubtedly Facebook can afford to take the financial hit, this just proves the importance of actually reading the room before you decide to rebrand.
When a company rebrands, you would expect the new image to be fresh looking and forward thinking, however, they’re two concepts that the Holiday Inn brand managed to overlook altogether.
While the new logo design isn’t bad by a long stretch, it’s not fantastic either. They appear to have given their brand identity a little polish nada bit of a spring clean rather than a complete overhaul. On top of that, considering the rebrand is only five years old, it’s already starting to look a little dated.
Research leads me to believe that the identity was developed by an inhouse team and only time will tell if they’ve made the right move for the international hotel chain.
The rebrand of the Holiday Inn hotel chain was dubbed “the $1 billion rebrand”, all in all, a lot of money to spend on such a generic solution.
Kraft are one of the biggest food and drinks companies in the world. When they revealed their new brand identity in 2009, the design community went crazy and eventually, the food giant relented and six months later, pretty much reverted to their original concept.
And thankfully, Kraft hadn’t entirely updated their food packaging design range before they made that decision.
So what was so bad about their new choice of logo? Well firstly, they’re using Tekton as one of their fonts. A font used only in the same breath as Comic Sans and Papyrus. A dreadful decision. And the rest of the logo? It’s just so bland and generic for such a renowned company, it’s pathetic. The original logo was like a smack in the face with one of their plastic cheese squares. It said “BOOM! WE ARE KRAFT” whereas the new logo says “We’re a food and drinks giant without any true identity, we’re quite bland and very generic, we’re Kraft, ish.”
Five months after releasing the generic logo shown above, Kraft went ahead and flipped the star to the left and changed the smile from red to blue, losing its nod to the original Kraft logo in the process. They then split the company in two, forming a new company called Mondelez, a story for a different article altogether, and the Kraft Foods Group who adopted a refreshed logo of the initial Kraft brand.
All in all Kraft didn’t appear to put all that much thought into their rebrand and marketing efforts and appeared to be “winging it.” Not good practice from one of the largest companies in the world. The star burst logo was entirely lost in the split, so at least one good thing came from all of the confusion.
Sapient Nitro are the agency that provided branding services for Kraft’s rebrand, however, no facts and figures are available.
Microsoft are known the world over. Manufacturing and developing products such as Windows, Xbox and Bing, they appear to be losing a lot of ground on their competitors. The amount of Apple users is on the rise, Xbox One messed up their launch campaign to Playstation 4 and Bing will never ever be a serious threat to Google.
Windows 8 brought the “Metro” look to Windows machines. The Windows operating system and Windows phone are built around the Metro style, interactive tiles and bright colours. When Windows 8 launched, Microsoft rolled out a new branding campaign, with Bing becoming the latest Microsoft product to be brought in line.
My issue with the Microsoft rebrand is not the result they ended up with, more the result they could have ended up with. To be fair to Microsoft, the identity they’ve created is very sleek looking and the whole range sits very well together. However, there were better options available.
Anybody that was paying attention to the design community around the time of the Microsoft relaunch will be familiar with the work of Andrew Kim, a young designer who put together an extensive rebranding project of Microsoft’s products and services. Mr Kim’s Microsoft proposal actually went live before Microsoft rebranded. You’ve got to think that his proposal caused shock waves in the Microsoft office and eventually, Microsoft hired him. They should have bought his proposal in the process!
The Microsoft rebrand was so expansive and took place over such a long period of time, with multiple conflicting reports on the financials, that it’s impossible to calculate the cost of the project.
Pepsi are a brand that are always going to struggle with their identity. I’ve already looked into the Coke vs Pepsi debate in another post but to summarise, Pepsi’s branding will never come close to the timeless Coca Cola identity.
The company are no stranger to logo designs, having changed their logo multiple times over the course of their company history. In 2008, Pepsi released the latest iteration of their logo, rotating the circular icon and incorporating a “cheeky smile” into the design. They accompanied this with a revolting looking typeface, leaving this designer with a less than sweet taste in his mouth.
“The white stripe on the new logo varies across Pepsi products, getting wider or thinner depending on product. The design team that spearheaded the campaign explains that they’re supposed to be “smiles,” but we don’t really see it.”
– Forbes Magazine
The cost of rebranding the entire Pepsi company is said to be $1.2 billion over 3 years with the logo mark for Pepsi alone coming in at $1 million.
Launched in 1998, Mozilla Firefox quickly became one of the most popular web browsers on the market. Most people can easily recognise the Firefox logo, with the fire-tailed fox encircling the earth.
Unfortunately, time hasn’t been overly kind to Mozilla, especially with the launch of Google Chrome in 2008. While Mozilla Firefox has remained a consistently used browser, it is certainly dragging behind its competitors these days.
In an attempt to make themselves more relevant, Mozilla decided to launch a long-winded public campaign in which they open-sourced ideas to rebrand themselves. The end result was a rather lackluster respelling of the company name to ‘Moz://a’.
Mozilla’s creative director, Tim Murray was clearly pleased with it, saying;
“Because it has a portion of URL embedded in the middle of the logo, you know this must be some kind of internet company.”
Public response, on the other hand, was less than impressed, with many criticising it for being too heavy-handed and outdated. Others said that it just served as a reminder that Mozilla was being left behind instead of clearly indicating where they were going as a company.
While there is no information available for what Mozilla’s rebranding cost them in money, it certainly cost their reputation as a company attempting to reposition themselves in an industry led by giants.
In January 2001, Royal Mail (the UK’s biggest mail carrier) announced a new company name and brand: Consignia. What does it even mean? And surely they could have chosen a better logo design? Mike Verdin of BBC News called the new name “A duffer. A howling waste of money.”
- To give over to the care of another; entrust.
- To turn over permanently to another’s charge or to a lasting condition; commit irrevocably: “Their desponding imaginations had already consigned him to a watery grave” (William Hickling Prescott).
- To deliver (merchandise, for example) for custody or sale.
- To set apart, as for a special use or purpose; assign.
In theory, the name fits the description of the company perfectly. In practice however, people didn’t like it. It was too long, too fussy and it hardly rolls off the tongue. There are articles online titled things like “Consignia: Nine Letters That Spelled Fiasco” which give an in depth look into the name and what a shambles the rebrand was.
Shortly after one year with the name, the head honchos reverted back to Royal Mail and mostly everything was forgiven, Consignia was forgotten about, except in design blogs where they are still bringing it up over 10 years later.
The Consignia name cost £1.5 million to launch in January 2001. A little over a year later, it cost the company £1 million to rebrand themselves again as Royal Mail.
The SciFi Channel, now known as the SyFy Channel, is a satellite TV channel that broadcasts science fiction, drama, supernatural, fantasy, reality, paranormal, wrestling, and horror programming. In 2009, the SciFi Channel was rebranded as Syfy, a move met with outrage from viewers around the world.
”By changing the name to Syfy, which remains phonetically identical, the new brand broadens perceptions and embraces a wider and more diverse range of imagination-based entertainment including fantasy, paranormal, reality, mystery, action and adventure, as well as science fiction. It also positions the brand for future growth by creating an ownable trademark that can travel easily with consumers across new media and non-linear digital platforms, new international channels and extend into new business ventures.”
– Syfy Press Release
By emphasising how the name Syfy is the same as SciFi, they’ve shot themselves in the foot. At the end of the day, what they’re trying to say is “We’re the same…but different!” A lot of people will have been comfortable with the name SciFi, finding solace in being a “sci-fi nerd.” Consider that target market alienated (no pun intended.)
All in all, this was a fairly shoddy move, and the new visuals look dreadful when compared to the fantastically simplistic Saturn logo design.
PepsiCo aren’t renowned for their fantastic branding efforts. Earlier in this post we talked about PepsiCo’s failure with the Pepsi brand. Now, we’re going to look at one of the other brands they own, Tropicana, another rebranding example gone wrong.
At the same time as PepsiCo were failing at rebranding the black fizzy drink, they were also looking at adjusting and rebranding the other companies they have, including Mountain Dew and Tropicana. The Mountain Dew rebrand didn’t end up looking as bad as the rest and has escaped the clutches of this post, the Tropicana rebrand however, is a different story altogether.
While I felt the rebrand looked a lot cleaner, it lost it’s identity somewhat. The orange was gone, it turned into a visual reflection of the liquid inside the container. If they were going to do that, they could’ve gone with a plastic window? The upper arched curved Tropicana typeface is gone and overall, their packaging design just looks rather bland and generic.
Quite frankly, it’s the sort of design you might expect to see on a supermarket ‘own-brand’ orange juice, not a big brand like Tropicana. Not that there’s anything wrong with ‘own-brand’ orange juice, mind, but you certainly wouldn’t look at this and instantly think ‘Tropicana’.
The sales figures came out to reveal sales of the Tropicana Pure Premium line had plummeted by a whopping 20% . On the revelation of the figures, PepsiCo reversed their decision to rebrand and reverted the carton design to what they had originally.
While there are no exact costs for the actual redesign and rebranding of Tropicana, it is estimated the move cost Tropicana around $137 million in sales between January 1st and February 22nd.
Conclusion: 10 Rebranding Failures and How Much They Cost
You might agree or disagree with the company rebranding examples I’ve featured here, but what can we learn from all of this?
Firstly, your brand strategy and approach to rebranding needs to be well thought out and planned meticulously. No just doing it for the sake of doing it.
And secondly – even the biggest companies get things wrong. So in future, if something doesn’t go quite right for you, just think to yourself “well, at least I didn’t spend millions in the process” (unless you did, then panic.)
So that’s it. 17 massive companies that rebranded to no avail, some ran with it anyway, others learned from their mistakes and backtracked. You can learn a lot through studying a rebrand. What do you think about these rebranding efforts? Sound off civilly below.
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