Disastrous corporate branding: Examples of what not to do

Jul 21, 2017

Rebranding is a natural part of a company's life cycle. But in a world where brand recognition is more important than ever, you’d think global brands would tread carefully when revamping their look. Unfortunately, a handful of brands crash and burn disastrously. Striving for the perfect brand identity can sometimes be misconstrued as an impulse for change. In fact, a successful rebrand should completely overhaul the company goals, message and culture, not just change a name or logo.

A successful corporate rebrand digs deeper than a new font or logo

To many designers, a corporate rebrand means recycling an existing identity into one with a slick new icon, tasty colour palette, or a new font. In reality, a successful rebrand involves a lot more. Aligning your brand's values and beliefs with your target market is a good place to start.

In 2012, the London Olympics revealed their new identity to a huge backlash from the public. The organisers wanted to inject a little modernity into the branding of the games which played on a “simple, distinct and bold emblem, buzzing with energy, not afraid to shake things up and to challenge the accepted”.
Unfortunately, the rebrand was met with echoing disapproval. The logo, which cost $800,000 to design, was criticised as childish, ridiculous, ugly and in no way representative of London or the Olympic Games. People asked if there was a need for rebrand at all in the first place and generally agreed that no, there wasn’t.

Corporate branding examples

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

If you apply the ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ principle, rebranding implies there was something wrong with your brand that only a new image could fix. An unnecessary corporate rebrand can invite in a nightmarish response from the general public, which can quickly morph into a nightmarish decline for the company’s reputation.
Airbnb’s disastrous 2014 rebrand drew comparisons between to the new logo and certain ‘lady parts'. This is a glaringly obvious example of attempting to fix something that wasn’t broken. Many people questioned whether this dramatic rebrand was even necessary. Particularly since Airbnb already had a decent logo, one that resonated with its consumers and didn’t burn the corneas of design critics around the world. Lots of established brands mistake their impulsive need for change with a need for a major rebrand. When rebranding, it’s important to consider why you’re doing it. What’s the underlying reason? What’s the worst that could happen? Are you going to isolate your customers with your new identity? Remember, change is good but strategic change is better.

corporate branding examples

Don’t underestimate your customer’s attachment to classic

Cold-shouldering your classic look can repel the very consumers you're hoping to attract. Or as Drake would say “No new friends, I still ride with my day-one friends”.

The risks posed by a major rebrand needs to be carefully balanced by the need to stay relevant. In 2009, Tropicana did away with their classic branding, scrapping the beloved ‘orange with a straw’ logo for a near-unrecognisable design.
Loyal customers reacted strongly, complaining that the new brand design looked like a generic budget home-brand version of Tropicana. They quickly backpedaled, reverting to their original brand. The lesson to take away from this is: for an older brand with a strong identity, loyalty overrides modernity any day.

corporate branding examples

Unlike a new haircut, corporate rebrands need to be planned and purposeful, not just a shallow need for something fresh and new. Don’t give classic the cold shoulder and remember: don’t fix what ain’t broken.