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When Rebranding Goes Wrong: Analysis of Infamous Failures

When Rebranding Goes Wrong: Analysis of Infamous Failures


Companies are always looking for ways to increase sales and enhance market awareness. Sometimes this involves rebranding, which can make sense – companies that are willing to adapt tend to remain relevant within the market. But sometimes, rebranding can fail to meet expectations or may even do damage. Last week, we looked at how Trainline had got its recent rebrand right. This week, we look at rebrands that have gone wrong.

The Danger of Rebranding

Rebranding can be expensive. Focus groups, strategic debate, market research and prototype creation don’t tend to come cheap. Nor is it a safe investment. A failed rebrand is money down the drain, particularly for companies that have to revert to the established logo/name of old because customers couldn’t relate to, or didn’t like, the new brand. We take a look at some of the companies that have received negative press because of a rebrand, with some even having to revert to their previous identity.

Mind the Gap

One of the most notable brands of the 1990s, Gap, attempted a rebranded in 2010. A logo that had been with the company for more than 20 years disappeared overnight with no warning. The customers really didn’t like its replacement. Gap then performed one of the fastest turnarounds in history and reverted back to the iconic Gap logo. It cost them $100 million.

Pasta Hut: A Glorious Failure?

Eating too much pizza is bad for you. But Pizza Hut don’t want you to think that, or at least that was the thinking behind their rebrand in 2008. The restaurant, which launched in the UK in the 1970s with a menu consisting predominantly of pizza (if only there was a clue in the name) opted to rebrand to encourage a healthier lifestyle and show the diversity of their menu. However, the change was not a popular one. After grabbing the attention of the national headlines and a significant amount of public outcry following a changing of their name to Pasta Hut, Pasta/Pizza Hut informed the public that the change was only a temporary publicity stunt, aimed at promoting their pasta dishes. Admitting that it is only a temporary measure meant that Pizza Hut stopped the story in its tracks, but it is remembered for creating brand confusion over what the chain actually stood for.

The “Bluebirds”: Controversial Commerical Rebrand

Although we aren’t huge fans of talking about football in a business blog (because some of our members of staff could write about it all day), one of the worst cases of rebranding come from the beautiful game.

Cardiff City, affectionately known by supporters as The Bluebirds, had been playing in blue since 1908, with a Bluebird prominent on the club’s crest for a number of years. Naturally, it came as an outcry to the fans when the Malaysian principal shareholder Vincent Tan opted to rebrand the club to make them more popular in the global market, in particular, the Asian market. The club's home kit was changed to red and the beloved bluebird was replaced with a dragon, at the cost of an estimated £100 million. Many fans refused to buy newly branded merchandise or even attend games. After four years of protest, Cardiff reverted back to their traditional colours.

BP: Controversy Over the Logo

Many companies do not wish to rebrand but do so to combat modern day issues that are affecting their brand. The rise of issues such as green energy, expansion into other markets and recycling has had an effect on numerous brands. In 2000, in light of numerous PR disasters and a rise in the awareness of green energy, BP rebranded their logo of over 70 years to the “Helios” logo.  The logo, representing the Greek word for the sun, was to symbolise and represent the company’s green growth strategy. However, there is nothing clean or green about drilling oil, and it appeared that BP was trying to provide connotations of something they weren’t. Shortly after the rebrand, the company caused global outrage with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill – the largest marine oil spill in the history of the industry. Green Peace challenged BPs logo and insisted that they change it to one that did not imply renewable or clean energy. They were unsuccessful in their campaign with the environmentally friendly logo riding out the storm, however, BP have always had their logo criticised when scrutinised as a result of the campaign.

Some Branding Tips: What is Needed to Successfully Rebrand

When rebranding, it is important to know what you are and what your company does and represents. Like the BP example, there is no point in trying to paint a picture of something that you aren’t. Changing brand personality can be rash and confusing, and although it can grab headlines, it can prove to be detrimental. The Cardiff example shows that it is important not to upset the customer as doing so could reduce sales and income. If you must change something, know why you are doing it and justify it to your audience. Then again, Partick Thistle proved with Kingsley, their bizarre mascot, that there is no such thing as bad press. Finally, change is not appreciated by a lot of people, but if you believe your company must rebrand and the rebranding is appropriate for you, have the courage and commitment to see it through.

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