what’s the big deal with rebranding?

Netflix went white today. Which brings to mind many of the other high-profile re-brands we’ve all encountered in the last couple of years. As unabashed Netflix addicts and designers, we’d love to know what you think about the new design.  Personally, I like it. But read on for a list of the most public (and in some cases, disastrous) rebranding campaigns from the last couple of years.

Let’s not forget, Netflix already tried rebranding once with Qwikster — the company’s solution to separate its streaming service from its “red envelope” mail service. Needless to say, you might not have even heard of Qwikster, which places that particular effort in the “flaming heap of failure” pile.

and for the record, I have no idea what “Girl Most Likely Is” on my “Recently Viewed List”, so I don’t want to hear it!  


Stunning Success: Old Spice

Before a couple years ago, Old Spice was perceived as just that – Old (and boring). But when shirtless former NFL  player Isaiah Mustafa galloped onto the scene on a stunning white stallion in a series of hilariously off-the-wall advertisements, the age-old brand got the shot of youth  it desperately needed.  To keep the train rolling, the company did the next best thing by taking the message directly to their audience with hundreds of videos that directly responded to questions and comments from Reddit users, bloggers, and celebrities.

Why it worked: Not only was old-spice willing to re-evaluate their brand, but they were willing to go all-in on a brand strategy that not only took their message directly to the audience, but encouraged a level of engagement that got that audience excited about a commercial. Very impressive. After this particular rebranding campaign, we began seeing a lot of efforts that incorporated more consumer engagement (some successful, some not).

Dismal Failure: Gap

You might remember this one from a couple years ago. Ad-age described the Gap redesign as such: “A rebranding that re-created the retailer’s name in a bold Helvetica font with a blue gradiated box perched atop the P” However, that description basically just boils down to “They changed the font, added a gradient, and smushed the blue box into the P’s skull.” Hordes of Youtubers recreated the (almost-certainly) very expensive  logo in under a minute.

What went wrong?: A lot of the time invested into a rebrand is spent around the conference table, working through the many layers of meaning involved. But  sometimes you just don’t mess with a classic, and if you’re going to – it better be damn good. Like the next example.


Stunning Success: Apple

I’m going to be the first to admit it right now. Right when Apple was becoming cool again  I bought a Macbook. After the cult of Jobs was firmly perched at the top, I went back to P.C. and android for no reason other than that I am a dirty, rotten technology-hipster (There, I admit it).

(Part of) Why it Worked: The first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem, Apple’s problem of near-bankruptcy and irrelevance was solved in a number of ways, many of them had to do with Apple’s brand. By making Apple a sexier brand that speaks to its customer’s dreams and aspirations, the company set itself apart from the stale and unfeeling message that most had come to expect from the major “computer” companies. For a bit more depth on the subject than you’ll find here  I think one of the few documentaries on the subject might help outline what turned the company around.

Check out the famous commercial that — for some — signaled the beginning of Apple’s turn-around.


Dismal Failure: Pepsi

Do you recall the last time Coca Cola changed their logo? No? There’s a good reason for that. They rarely change their logo, because by now it is central to one of the most classically American brands.  The same can’t be said for Pepsi. While also not tasting as Good as Coke (I swear, the “bite” of Coke really scratches that itch. Maybe it’s the Cocaine — kidding, of course).

After some digging, it would appear that Pepsi has attempted a re-brand nearly once every 10 years, for the last decade. Apparently they didn’t get the memo about keeping their brand fresh without having to go for the nuclear option. For a deeper look into the rebranding efforts of the two biggest soft-drink giants in the world, check out this clever little graphic  from the Consumerist.


What went wrong?: Does this look like the result of millions of dollars spent on brand development? Apparently, the idea was the include a number of variations of the Pepsi symbol to make it look like a “smile”, with each product having a slightly different variation. Now that I know that, sure…. I can see it. But does it work very well? Not in my book.

Bonus Round: the Sci Fi Channel

I don’t really need to go into too much detail here. I’ll just share this definition from Urban Dictionary.

I still love some of the shows on this channel, but this is another reason to always think about your brand from every angel to avoid  the potential for embarrassment. For another example of this, take a look at our first advertisement in The Hippo.


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