Has A Poor Brand Redesign Ended A Company?

Has A Poor Brand Redesign Ended A Company?

Over the past year, there have been a lot of controversial rebrands and redesigns of existing brand iconography.

In early October, crowdfunding website Patreon controversially changed its branding to emphasise its pivot away from primarily focusing on payment processing and towards wider creative community goals. 

It has not necessarily been received well, nor was the change from Facebook to Meta or Twitter to X, but irrespective of the negative perception of all of these brands, the redesign alone is unlikely to lead to any major problems.

Conversely, Apple’s minimalist rebrand managed to save a company weeks from bankruptcy and turn it into one of the biggest companies in the world.

However, a poorly conceived brand redesign can potentially destroy a company if executed incorrectly or for the wrong reasons, and the greatest example of this is RadioShack’s infamous 2009 rebrand to “The Shack”.

RadioShack, known as Tandy in the United Kingdom, was initially a company that focused on electronics components and accessories, but by the end of the 2000s had pivoted towards primarily selling mobile phones, changing its brand name in 2009 to simply “The Shack”.

The marketing was mocked at the time but did help to increase the company’s sales of mobile phones and accessories, aided by fortuitous timing in the wake of the first generation of smartphones.

However, rather than increasing their overall consumer base, what this brand exercise did was alienate their existing customers who wanted to buy components and build their own inventions, managing to somehow miss the rise of the modern maker movement in the process.

This branding exercise managed to concentrate their customers into a market that was about to collapse due to fundamental shifts in the mobile phone market towards direct sales by carriers and manufacturers.

By the time the company tried to pivot back and deemphasise “The Shack”, it was far too late, and the company declared bankruptcy in early 2015.

This fable proves that brands have a lot of power, but that power can not only create successful businesses, it can also destroy them. Working with capable design agencies and having a long-term plan to consolidate core customers and reach out to new people can help to avoid this fate.