10 Major Rebranding Disasters And What You Should Learn From Them

tropicana carton redesign

Photo: justinlai via Flickr

A brand identity, name, and logo is a company’s public face. So you’d think companies would be really careful in figuring out how to revamp that image.

Sadly, a good number of recent rebranding attempts seemed to just crash and burn.

We spoke with award-winning branding agency Method, Inc. and branding guru Rob Frankel about the worst rebranding disasters they’ve seen in the past few years.

The lesson? A successful rebranding involves overhauling a company’s goals, message, and culture — not just changing a name or a logo.

Also, messing with a classic is, more often than not, a bad idea.

Unfortunately, despite their massive marketing budgets, it seems like many major corporations (and one major international city) haven’t gotten the memo.

Click here to check out 10 major rebranding disasters and what you should learn from them >

Tropicana underestimates their customers' attachment to a classic

London may have won the bid, but its weird Olympic logo has everyone up in arms

If there's anything we've learned today, it's that you shouldn't mess around too much with a classic. And there are few things more classic than the Olympics.

But the organisers behind London's 2012 logo wanted to inject a little modernity into the branding of their Games. As their website puts it, 'Our emblem is simple, distinct, bold and buzzing with energy.... It feels young in spirit... Not afraid to shake things up, to challenge the accepted. To change things.'

Unfortunately, the unveiling was met with resounding disapproval, and even hostility.

ABC News reports that the logo, which cost $800,000 to create, was generally deemed as childish, ridiculous, ugly, and in no way representative of London or the Games. Visually, 'it's really hard to understand what they're trying to say,' Method's Alicia Bergin commented.

In an unofficial public poll by the BBC, 80% of those surveyed gave the logo the lowest possible ranking.

Described as 'totally ridiculous' by our branding experts, Radio Shack's decision to call itself 'The Shack' was a sad attempt to be hip.

'Why would anyone throw away decades of brand value (which actually shows up on the balance sheet as an intangible asset) just to try to be cool for a few minutes?' Frankel asks.

Engadget's Joshua Topolsky puts it aptly when he supposes that 'they wanted us to immediately picture a remote location where very, very bad things happen.'

Capital One revamps with a dated and irrelevant swoosh

This is another failed attempt by a large company to relate to consumers on a hipper level. Unfortunately, Capital One was about a decade too late with their addition of a 'swoosh' in 2008.

Brand design blog Brand New reacted like this: 'Nothing, in the year 2008, can justify the use of a swoosh.'

'It doesn't add any distinction, and it's been done a million times before,' Bergin tells us. 'They wanted to have more of a consumer-facing feel, but this is too obvious.'

Accenture: The ultimate corporate name that means nothing

When Andersen Consulting cut ties with Arthur Andersen, they did the worst thing a company could do -- they let a marketing consultant choose the new brand name.

The result sounds like the quintessential, meaningless, 'big corporation' name, Frankel says. Although it was supposedly inspired by the phrase 'accent on the future,' it tells the customer nothing.

As another one of Time's worst name changes, the article says, 'The change cost Andersen/Accenture an estimated $100 million to execute and was regarded as one of the worst rebrandings in corporate history.'

After some major human rights violations tainted Blackwater's name in 2007, the company took Wired's advice and tried to rename itself.

According to an ABC News report, the company explained that it chose 'Xe' because the word has 'no connotations.' It's completely meaningless... and confusing.

Unfortunately, a simple name change won't erase the public memory -- the company is still generally referred to as Blackwater, or some variation of 'Blackwater, now renamed Xe', and it's struggling to get business.

We're not sure why Pepsi's new logo cost them $1 million to develop

Named as one of Time magazine's Top 10 Worst Corporate Name Changes, Comcast's decision to re-name itself 'Xfinity' in 11 of its U.S. markets was just awful.

As we reported, 'Xfinity? Seriously? What the heck does that mean?'

'Comcast hopes the new moniker will help customers forget the high prices and poor customer service for which the company has been criticised in the past,' the Times article says. 'Will the name change work? Probably not, but at least it'll sound a bit edgier when you're put on hold ... with Xfinity.'

And then there's Aol. (yes, with the period) -- and the jury is still out.

According to our sources, the reaction to the new Aol. has been split relatively evenly. But the key will be whether or not the company can fulfil the new identity they've adopted through their services and products.

'They've signaled they're re-inventing themselves.... It's ambitious,' Bergin says. 'The real challenge is can they make all of their products live up to the promise of this new brand.'

The Brand New blog points out, 'If AOL is committed to shedding not just its Time Warner shares but also its public perception as a web dinosaur then this identity can do it for them.'

That is the key to a successful rebranding, after all -- 'the real reason to rebrand is to alter the expectations you're setting for the public,' Frankel explains. 'Changing your brand strategy means becoming different company.... it's not just changing your name or your logo.'

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