Unfortunate Ways Rebranding Can Go Wrong

Unfortunate Ways Rebranding Can Go Wrong

For most companies in the world, the brand is the business, and money, time, effort and engagement with a branding agency are often required to find a brand identity that suits the business, its activities and its ambitions.

When executed correctly, a rebrand is flexible, modern, suitable for permutations and immediately recognisable. The Premier League’s modernised lion iconography and Co-Op’s rebranding are fantastic examples of this principle in action, making subtle changes to logos that work.

However, not every rebrand can be successful, and to demonstrate this, here are some of the ways rebranding can go wrong, with some notable illustrative examples.

An Unfortunate Double Meaning

Whilst many long lists of both real and apocryphal brands with names that are inadvertently explicit can make it seem like a more common phenomenon than it is, rebranding to a name that has a rude meaning is not as common as you may think.

However, one of the most notable examples came when the SciFi Channel, frustrated that they could not trademark their name, rebranded as SyFy in 2009.

It did not work very well, with people mocking the new name (even going so far as to pronounce it ‘sif-ee’ or ‘see-fee’ for a while), which only intensified when it turned out that ‘syfy’ was a slang term in many languages for syphilis, a sexually transmitted infection.

Beyond this, it highlighted that the channel was moving away from its central focus, presenting more reality television instead of the science fiction and fantasy it was known for.

The Perils Of Deconstruction

Many brands focus on the idea of deconstruction, which in the context of branding is where the different meaningful elements of a logo are broken down and reconstituted in a way that maximised its symbolic meaning.

Instagram is a great example of this, taking a logo that evoked the instant camera era that the app attempted to replicate but in a streamlined, abstract form that represented how it was a new way to communicate rather than a replication of old ways.

However, not all deconstructive efforts are as wildly successful as Instagram, McDonald's or Starbucks. Pepsi, for example, struggled greatly when it unveiled a new logo in 2008, as did Tropicana.

However, no brand was more poorly damaged by a deconstructive rebrand than Gap. The clothing retailer, which already had a simple and recognisable logo, removed the serifs and turned the iconic blue box into a gradient more suited to a printer company in a rebranding effort that cost $100m.

It lasted a week before it was removed due to near-universal criticism and mockery.

Change For The Sake Of Change

If you already have an effective, powerful brand identity, then more radical rebranding exercises must be careful not to undermine the history, legacy and strong identity associated with a particular company.

This was not the approach taken with the Consignia fiasco in 2001, which attempted to create a coordinated identity for the Royal Mail, the Post Office and Parcelforce, which at the time were government-owned and largely unified, and highlight that the postal service does more than deliver mail.

It backfired spectacularly, with the name becoming a byword for bad branding exercise, and in 18 months would rebrand again to Royal Mail Group.