Rebrands can remedy scandals, but they can also cause them. Here are 6 of the most controversial company rebrands of 2019.

Sears came under fire from critics who said its new logo closely resembled Airbnb’s. Airbnb/Sears

Rebranding can be a strategic way for a company to shift its outward-facing image.

However, while some rebrands can leave a new, positive impression, they can also create an entirely new controversy.

While some companies were criticised this year for poorly designed logos, others were accused of “running from their problems” following a scandal.

Here are six of the most controversial company rebrands of 2019.

Fast-fashion retailer Zara divided consumers when it launched its new, more high-fashion inspired logo.

Zara logo. Zara

Reviews were mixed when fast-fashion retailer Zara unveiled its new logo in January. The new design paid homage to its 2011 predecessor, but the typeface’s letters were noticeably closer together. Many critics of the new logo remarked that it looked “squashed,” to the point where one Fast Company reporter remarked that it made them “feel claustrophobic.”

One well-known graphic designer, Erik Spiekermann, wrote on Twitter, “That is the worst piece of type I’ve seen in years. Was this done by one of those new robots that will replace humans?”

Pepsi rebranded its cans in 2019 with a new tagline, “For the Love of It.” Critics said it was a little too similar to McDonald’s iconic “I’m Lovin’ It” slogan.

Pepsi’s ‘For the Love of It’ campaign. Pepsi

Pepsi came under fire in 2019 when it announced its new slogan, which critics remarked was far too similar to McDonald’s iconic tagline. In a statement to CNBC, Roberto Rios, senior vice president of marketing at PepsiCo, claimed the new slogan was inspired by the “iconic brand rooted in entertainment with a refreshing and delicious beverage people around the world love.”

However, while people may love the taste of Pepsi, they certainly didn’t love the new tagline and rebranding. Not only was the new slogan compared to McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It” catchphrase, but it also seemed to be eerily similar to Coca-Cola’s 1982 slogan for Diet Coke, “Just for the Taste of It,” which was brought back in 1995 and 2009.

Sears came under fire for its new logo, which critics said resembled the Airbnb logo.

Sears came under fire from critics who said its new logo closely resembled Airbnb’s. Airbnb/Sears

Sears has had a rough year. Between declining sales, a report of messy stores, and a battle to bounce back after bankruptcy, the retailer can’t seem to catch a break. However, it caused even more controversy with its rebrand in March 2019. The new logo, which also features the phrase “making moments matter,” was quickly compared to Airbnb’s logo.

While the logo was reportedly created to represent the “infinity loop” of family, home, and heart, many critics simply couldn’t ignore the fact it looked extremely similar to the home-rental website’s symbol.

Slack wasn’t cut any slack when its new logo was compared to a swastika and other offensive imagery.

The Slack Technologies Inc. logo is seen on a banner outside the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) during the company’s IPO in New York. Reuters

When it comes to a company rebrand, the last thing marketing teams want is to offend. However, when Slack launched its revamped logo in January 2019, the company was promptly met with internet backlash. Some compared it to Google Photo’s colourful logo, while others said it closely resembled offensive imagery like a Nazi swastika.

Facebook Incorporated, which owns the eponymous social networking platform, changed its logo following controversy over the company’s transparency.

Facebook company logo. Facebook

On November 5, Facebook Inc. announced its logo change, which shifted towards a more colourful yet minimalist font style. The logo features “Facebook” in a new, all-caps font and alternates between blue, green, purple, red, and orange in a GIF format. The colours chosen represent the company’s multiple brands – blue for Facebook, green for WhatsApp, and purple, red, and orange for Instagram.

Following a year of controversy surrounding Facebook’s data collection and privacy policies, the new logo was thought to distance the parent company from the social network. Antonio Lucio, Facebook’s chief marketing officer, told Bloomberg that the company even considered changing the parent company name entirely prior to the rebrand, but was concerned this would come across as Facebook “trying to run from the problems associated with its brand.”

Of course, the new branding was not without its critics. TwitterCEO Jack Dorsey, who has voiced his issues with Facebook in the past, seemed to take a jab at the new, all-caps branding in a tweet: “Twitter … from TWITTER.”

Volkswagen ditched its iconic logo for a sleeker, more modern design, but people weren’t happy about one element of the design.

New Volkswagen logo. Reuters

Following Volkswagen’s 2015 emissions scandal, in which the company pleaded guilty to three felonies and agreed to pay $US14.7 billion to settle, it rebranded in September 2019. Featuring thinner lines and a more minimalistic look, the new logo was created to reference the increasingly “electric future” of the car company.

One online design blogger called the new logo “damage control,” and said the new design broke many design rules, though they did like the final look of the logo.

“As far as we can tell, the new design throws the rule book out of the window; the lines are far too thin, the angles of the letter strokes are all over the place, and the gap between the letters is too wide. Honestly, it shows blatant disregard for the rules.”