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4 Common Mistakes to Avoid When You Rebrand

By | March 05, 2014

When a company’s profits take a dive, often the first thing they’ll do is take their branding back to the drawing board. A fresh new look will automatically change the perception of the brand, get media attention, and present a clean break from their lackluster performance up until that point, right?

Well, not always. A botched rebrand can easily backfire, as Olive Garden, Arby’s, GAP, and Yahoo have learned the hard way in the last few years. Here are some of the common branding mistakes they made that you can avoid.

1. Abandoning the core of your brand

When you’ve built your brand as a family friendly, low cost Italian restaurant and then unveil a new logo that screams… well, none of those things, people aren’t going to have a positive reaction. Olive Garden launched their new brand this week, and quickly took a beating on social media for it. (As one twitter said, “It’ll now be a home decor company specializing in mid-priced hand towels” Ouch.) Their original branding, with its textures, drop shadows, and swirly script was definitely outdated and needed an update, but by totally ditching the original  brand they alienated and confused longtime customers. Instead, they should have simplified the original logo and kept the essential elements (script font, grape bunch) to make the new logo a recognizable evolution of the brand.


2. Getting caught in the trend cycle 

Arby’s also recently changed their look, and not for the better. They ditched the personality of  the trademark cowboy lettering, replacing it with a more modern but boring Ikea-ish san serif, then slapped a 3D effect on it and called it good. While the 3D look may be popular right now, using it pretty much ensures they’ll have to rebrand again sooner than later. The trendier your logo is, the sooner you’re going to have to update it, because whatever the design trend of the moment is right now will look just as outdated in a few years when those trends fade. Remember gradients? Yeah.


Gap made a similar mistake, abandoning their trademark blue box with serif letters in favor of a sleek but bland logo that looked more like a software company than a affordable clothing brand. The response from customers was swift and brutal, and GAP eventually backpedaled and returned to the old brand.


3. Inconsistent implementation

As far as rebrands go, Wendy’s is really not that bad. Where they went wrong happened long after the design process: implementing the new brand in their restaurants. To this day, if you walk into a Wendy’s you’re going to see an equal mix of the old and new logo. New logo on the napkins, old logo in the wallpaper. Old logo on the sign, new logo on the bags. When you change your brand, make sure you change it everywhere, lest the old version continue limping along behind it like some kind of ghost of brands past.


4. Crowdsourcing or DIYing it

Companies, I get it. You feel like you know your brand better than anyone else possibly could, so why would you ask a complete stranger to redo it? Just whip out your Adobe creative suite and have at it! Yahoo went exactly that route in 2013 when it revamped the logo it had had since 1995. Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, explains why they chose to design their new brand in house:

On a personal level, I love brands, logos, color, design, and, most of all, Adobe Illustrator. I think it’s one of the most incredible software packages ever made. I’m not a pro, but I know enough to be dangerous 🙂

So, one weekend this summer, I rolled up my sleeves and dove into the trenches with our logo design team: Bob Stohrer, Marc DeBartolomeis, Russ Khaydarov, and our intern Max Ma. We spent the majority of Saturday and Sunday designing the logo from start to finish, and we had a ton of fun weighing every minute detail.

Spending two days with three employees (and an intern) to come up with a mark that will be the brand of a international multimillion dollar behemoth of a company is at best, silly. At worst, it devalues the entire process of research, design, and reasoning that professional designers use to create brands that last. Guys, don’t do this. Your new brand will invariably look like a hot pile of design by committee crap. Please leave it to the professionals.


YahooNow, let’s look at an example done right.

Morton’s Salt has been around since 1910, and although their logo has evolved over time, they’ve never deviated too far from the original design.


(Image from Brand New)

The new logo stays true to the core concept, but the typography has been updated and the illustration has been simplified by removing lines that muddy up the 1968 version. While they could have put her in more “modern” clothes or made used flat planes of color to make the illustration trendier, instead they chose to keep the update classic and subtle.


So what have we learned here? If you’re going to rebrand, it’s best to:

  • Stay true to the core of your brand
  • Think timeless, not trendy
  • Hire a professional
  • Once you have your new brand, make the transition seamless and complete

If you follow these guidelines, you too can grow your brand and evolve over time without causing people to riot in the streets (or complain about it on Twitter, either way).


More reading:

Morton’s Salt rebrand on Brand New
People Hate Olive Garden’s New Logo on Business Insider
Yahoo Rolls Out New Logo on CNN[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]