The 5 Worst Rebrands of All Time & What Failed
At Huddle, we know a thing or two about expert branding — and rebranding — to create an iconic brand.
When it comes to branding, there are a lot of factors that go into success. But all too often, brands make mistakes when rebranding and end up failing miserably. Whether it's a confusing new logo, a poor choice in colours or using outdated messaging techniques, there are all sorts of reasons why a brand can fail at rebranding.
So, in this guide, we're going to look at some of the worst rebrands in history, try to pinpoint what went wrong and how you can avoid making the same mistakes when rebranding your own brand.
How not to rebrand
As we outlined in our How (and How Not) To Rebrand a Company guide, we have five rules when it comes to how not to rebrand:
- Don't cut corners
- Don't copy anyone. Be yourself.
- Don't try to be too clever.
- Develop a solid brand platform before doing anything.
- Don't go it alone.
Let's take a look at some examples of rebranding gone wrong and explore some of these rules in more detail.
Don’t cut corners
Your new brand identity needs to stand out to your target audience, beyond a simple logo or slogan. But to do this, you need to invest in the right tools and resources — things like professional design work, a modern website platform, and engaging content that truly resonates with your audience.
Cutting corners when rebranding is a quick way to fail, so make sure you're willing to put in the time, money, and effort needed to really make your new brand shine.
Don’t copy anyone. Be yourself.
While the latest logo trends can make handy inspiration for a new logo design, copying someone else's branding is a surefire way to fail. As we all know, brands are more than just logos — they're built on a certain personality and voice that needs to come through in everything, from the design choices you make to the words you use in your messaging.
So be yourself when rebranding, and resist the FOMO urge to copy what other brands are doing. Trust your gut, and don't follow the crowd just for the sake of it — go with what truly resonates with your brand values and identity.
Don’t try to be too clever
Rebranding strategy is important, but please stop trying to be too clever with your brand name or identity. Simple works for a reason. Five minutes of market research will tell you that overcomplicated names or logos simply won't resonate with most target audiences.
That's why it's important to be clear and direct when rebranding — this ensures that your core brand message always comes through loud and clear, no matter how you choose to present yourself.
The lesson here? Cut the crap and keep your rebrand simple.
We've found that de-branding could be the new rebranding. Take a look at this simple example by Rolling Stone. Cutting back only a slight shadow of the original logo, and with transformative effect, this is one rebrand we can get behind.
Develop a solid brand platform before doing anything
When you rebrand for growth, you need to have a solid brand platform established first. A brand platform is a living document that works as a foundation for your organisation's brand identity, messaging and visual presentation.
Developing a solid brand platform means conducting thorough market research, understanding your target audience, and figuring out exactly who you are as a brand and what core values define you. Only once you've done this can you truly start thinking about how best to present yourself, whether through an updated logo or a new content strategy.
So, before you even start to think about rebranding, take the time to establish a strong brand platform — it will save you lots of headaches and wasted effort down the line.
Don’t go it alone
The experts are there for a reason. When rebranding, it's important to surround yourself with a team of branding professionals who can help you make informed decisions. Whether that means hiring an experienced creative agency or reaching out to your community for feedback on new ideas, don't hesitate to seek guidance from others.
One place you should definitely not DIY is a rebrand.
So don't be afraid to enlist outside help when rebranding — it could be just what you need to make your vision a reality!
The 5 worst rebranding fails of all time & what failed
Revamped brand identity: Royal Mail
The UK's Royal Mail had an idea to change their logo in 2001. But when they released a complete overhaul of their brand identity, people were confused about who the company was: internet provider or mail delivery service?
Consignia, the name of Royal’s rebranded subsidiary, proved difficult to pronounce and completely unknown to a user base that had been familiar with the service for years, leading to an instant drop in brand recognition and, ultimately, backlash.
Rather than helping them compete better against popular competitors such UPS and FedEx, their rebranding efforts would only hamper the brands success. With a swift turnaround, Royal Mail decided to go back to their old name and logo design, leaving their bad branding effort as a thing of the past.
Gone but never forgotten, we say! 👀
The key lesson here is that rebranding requires a lot of strategic planning and careful consideration. Without these, you could end up making costly mistakes like Royal Mail did, confusing your customers and hampering your brand's success. So before you embark on any kind of rebranding, consider if you're rushing into it without the necessary research and planning.
If you are, take a step back and seek professional guidance before moving forward. With the right approach, your brand can thrive in the wake of any rebranding efforts!
New logo design: Mozilla Firefox
As one of the most popular and frequently used web browsers, Firefox is one bad rebrand that hit the spotlight.
The Firefox logo was updated as part of a rebranding process back in 2017, when its mother company, Mozilla, decided to change the logo to “Moz://a”. This new brand image sparked debate between users, and the general public, as to whether this was a step forward or backward for Firefox.
Some users viewed the updated logo as too minimalistic and confusing, while others praised it for being modern and streamlined. Ultimately, it would seem that the rebranding effort may have been too drastic of a change given how many people had become accustomed to the previous design. Mozzila’s creative director, Tim Murray, commented:
“Because it has a portion of URL embedded in the middle of the logo, you know this must be some kind of internet company.”
As an established brand with no need to explain itself as ‘some kind of internet company’, we can't help but think they missed the mark completely here.
What did we tell you? Don't make things too complicated! Please stop replacing unnecessary letters with symbols and numbers – stick to a simple, clean logo design that speaks for itself.
In the case of Firefox, their new logo design may have been too radical – and pointless – of a change for many users, resulting in confusion and negative reactions.
So, before you embark on any rebranding efforts, take stock of your current brand identity and consider if there's a better or easier way to achieve the results you're looking for. Above all, be willing to listen to feedback – even when it's not exactly what you want to hear.
Iconic logo redesign: GAP
In 2010, GAP performed possibly one of the bravest moves in retail branding history when it decided to change the classic logo that every customer recognized and loved. GAP had already secured a brand image as a trusted, classic brand with few changes over the years. So why risk changing something so iconic and beloved?
While they did it for good reason - though some speculate otherwise - GAP definitely didn't need a rebrand, and the new GAP logo design created outrage among loyal customers.
Unsurprisingly, it took less than 6 days for the retailer to revert back to their old logo design, using the same logo that customers had grown to know and love.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: don’t fix what isn’t broken.
However if, like GAP, you do feel like you need to modernise, design a new logo that doesn’t throw out and confuse your loyal customers. Always remember that customers form emotional attachments to logos, so keep that in mind when making any changes.
Overall, the key lesson here is to always be sure you’ve done your research and planning before embarking on a rebranding project. Without these essentials, you could end up alienating your customers, or even worse – jeopardising the success of your brand.
Logo redesign: Deviant Art
One rebranding failure we had to mention in this list was Deviant Art.
In 2014, DeviantART decided to replace their old logo design with a new logo design in the hopes of X. As they're in the design and art industry, we would expect an incredible new logo. However, the final output didn't quite live up to expectations.
With a sliced up brand name, the rebranded logo design was left feeling unfinished. And with all other elements of the logo being completely overhauled from their original logo, their brand identity became muddled and confusing.
Additionally, due to the striking resemblance to Russian design company platzkart.ru, there has been speculation that the new design might not have been quite so original after all...
Remember: be original. Copying from other designs will often result in a disaster and cause you more problems than it's worth down the line, so why bother? It's much more powerful to come up with your own unique design, rather than risk losing a potential customer to an overly similar logo.
It's also crucial to ensure that your brand and logo are still easy to recognize after a rebrand.
When changing your logo, you need to consider how it's impacting the overall brand identity of your company, as well as any emotions or associations your customers have with your original logo. Focus on creating a consistent and clear brand message, and always be sure to listen to customer feedback. If you can manage all this, then you're on the right track.
Website redesign: Skype
When it comes to rebranding, you also have to consider your digital channels and website. In fact, it can be hugely damaging to your brand image if you rebrand your website and get it wrong.
In terms of website redesign mistakes, we have to mention Skype. The video-based internet company has a long history of ongoing tweaks and revamping features in attempts to add brand value. But in 2017, it introduced a radical redesign offering a Snapchat-like Highlights feature, which didn't sit well with its users.
Based on these negative user reactions and an ongoing testing, Microsoft removed the Highlights feature and re-simplified Skype in 2018. Peter Skillman, Skype director of design, stated:
“Calling became harder to execute and Highlights didn’t resonate with a majority of users. We needed to take a step back and simplify!”
Although their redesign alienated many users, Skype is also a good example of a brand listening to its users and not ignoring user issues. By acknowledging their mistakes and responding to user feedback, Skype is managing to rebuild trust with its users.
When it comes to rebranding, one of the most important lessons is to always be willing to listen and respond to customer feedback.
As Skype has demonstrated, a good rebranding strategy should involve continual testing and user research. If you're not actively engaging with your customers throughout the rebranding process, there's a good chance you'll end up alienating them – or even worse, damaging the success of your brand.
So before embarking on a rebranding project, make sure that you've done your research and planning thoroughly to avoid pitfalls like these. A successful rebrand involves careful consideration at every stage and a clear focus on maintaining your customers' trust and loyalty.
Looking for expert support with your rebrand?
At Huddle, we understand the importance of rebranding to modernise your image and improve your business success. With years of experience in branding, digital design, and creative content, we are here to help you get it right – the first time around!
So if you’re struggling with a website redesign or need support with your logo redesign project or brand naming, submit a brief today. We're here to transform your business into an unforgettable brand, and help you stand out from the competition. We can't wait to hear from you!
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