7 Worst Rebrands: Logos Gone Wrong

7 Worst Rebrands: Logos Gone Wrong

Check out the 7 worst rebrands of all time. Looking to improve your business logo and identity design? Don’t make those mistakes!

7 Rebranding Disasters

History has seen many famous companies rebrand themselves and fail. Some fail miserably.

This usually happens because the rebranding process was not done right.

Logo design process gets especially complicated when company has something to lose.
There is a lot of risk associated with rebranding, because of the equity the company built
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If the logo design goes wrong, an established company can not only lose big money on the launch of unsuccessful redesign (think about everything that this logo touches needs to be replaced), but also entangles a potential lost in revenue due to different factors.

I’m going to cover those factors on real rebranding examples in this article and explain why those companies lost millions in revenue, confused customers and ultimately had to either go back to their previous logo or redo the process.

Worst Rebrands of Famous Brands

There is a lot of risks associated with redesigning a logo of an established company, because there’s an equity that the company has built over time, totally opposite to startup logo design.

Also check my article with examples of bad logo designs from Shark Tank Tv Show.

Why big companies redesign their logos

Rebranding is normally done when there is a change in business strategy, a shift in focus, a change in the target segment of customers or merely a faded and monotonous brand image.

At the core of all good brands is the fundamental understanding of the aspirations, beliefs, and fears of the target audience.

Many major corporations do a re-brand in order to reinvent themselves and convince someone, anyone, to purchase their services or products.

So, the company’s rebrand must be done the right way, because there’s to much at stake to make mistakes.

If we’re talking about logo redesigns, and the worst of same, it’d be very remiss of me not to mention the new Pepsi logo.

1. Pepsi

In 2008, Pepsi released the latest iteration of their logo, rotating the circular icon and incorporating a “cheeky smile” into the design.

The new logo cost Pepsi $1mln and is perhaps one of the best examples of a logo redesign gone wrong.

pepsi-rebrand

Pepsi Rebranding Failure

The design team that spearheaded the campaign explains that they’re supposed to be “smiles,” but we don’t really see it.

However, you have to give credit to Arnell Group for being able to sell that logo in such an uncanny way.

The design agency developed the Pepsi’s nonsensical logo redesign document you have to see.

Arnell Group linked the new logo to:

  • Hindu tradition
  • Parthenon
  • Mona Lisa
  • Earth’s gravitational field
  • Sun radiation

and even more ridiculous things.

The estimated cost of the total rebranding of Pepsi cost company $1.2 billion over 3 years plus 1mln to Arnell Group for the logo design of course.

Results: Instead of regaining the market share, Pepsi drops

2. Capital One

When companies redesign logos, they often embrace design trends.

Capital One did just that, except they embraced a trend that ended ten years ago.

capitalone rebrand

Capital One Rebranding Failure

Nothing can justify the use of a swoosh – much less a swoosh with gradients and bevels.

The old logo was nothing to admire, with its extended italic sans, and flimsy, subscript, italic serif, but at least it didn’t have a swoosh.

I just wish I could hear the reasoning behind that swoosh that was introduced in 2008 makeover of the Capital Bank Logo.

The new logo is referred to as the boomerang, and was, apparently, selected by the CEO from a wide range of choices.

Looks like a design that could have been peeled from one of those $5 logo designers on Fiverr or Upwork.

Actually, I think the Devil lost his boomerang and Capital One is trying hard to put it to good use.

When I see a gratuitous swoosh in a logo like this I try to imagine the conversation that leads up to it being thrown into the design.

Do people think they symbolize something specific? Forward thinking? Is a swoosh suppose to evoke some emotion?

See, here’s the thing – financial logos are supposed to be conservative.

They must indicate trust and reliability. Not some dopey internet design trend that’s been done since 2000.

And a boomerang as an icon for a bank? Please.

3. Gap

What the Gap did wrong?

When the Gap unveiled its new logo in 2010, the reaction was swift and unequivocal. And bad.

The redesign attracted the kind of mainstream attention and brought down the kind of wrath that, for a marketer, must be horrifying to watch.

Gap Rebranding Failure

Gap Rebranding Failure

But at the same time, it provides some valuable lesson.

Design types, naturally, were quick to weigh in on and, mainly, condemn the new logo.

But the critiquing wasn’t restricted to design blog comments, it was a more mass occupation.

The response was such that Gap execs responded immediately, asking the public to share its designs.

This sparked a speculation that the whole thing was a front for a crowdsourcing campaign.

Logo designers deciphered this as an idea of spec work being offered up to the retailer for free.

So why, exactly, is the new Gap logo bad?

How do you know that new logo you’re paying for isn’t going to make the entire world gag?

The logo has two problems: Its typeface choice and its use of a gradient square.

They are big problems because that’s what the logo is made of. Choosing Helvetica in 2010 is inexcusable.

It’s a 71-year-old typeface that is as bland as grilled chicken without salt and pepper.

Helvetica is so overused that it fails to provide a unique visual identifier for any company that chooses it as its logo.

It’s as if all your friends only ever ate grilled chicken without condiments. Every day. Of every year.

But even if you forget about all of that, why would Gap choose the same typeface as one of its main competitors, American Apparel?

Make no sense.

To stand apart, and move into the twenty-first century convincingly Gap should have chosen something less generic and with a tad more personality.

The square gradient is unfortunate because it’s completely gratuitous, like an asterisk at the end of a word, except there is no footnote.

Gap isn’t at the frontier of fashion and its clothes are modest and safe.

Consistently well made and easy to wear. It’s affordable sophistication.

Their previous logo and advertising campaigns have always shared those qualities.

Nothing too fancy but nothing to be embarrassed about either.

The new logo is completely embarrassing and it’s hard to understand how the client and design firm arrived at this decision.

It’s not about the misuse of Helvetica, squares and gradients.

It’s not about taste or lack thereof, It’s not about bad briefs, lazy designers or naive clients.

To cut a long story short, Gap performed possibly one of the fastest branding turnarounds of all time.

They reverted to their original design, just six days after putting their new logo out to the public.

There are many things that can be learned from Gap’s disaster and that article might just write itself in the near future.

4. Xerox

Xerox recently announced that they were changing their corporate logo, dropping the famous ‘X’ icon for the swishy, chromy, X-boxy design

Richard Wergan, vice president of advertising, old-xerox-symbol-newcalls the new design:

A brand identity that reflects the Xerox of today.

Xerox Rebranding Failure

Xerox Rebranding Failure

Yet, if you worked anywhere with one of that multi-tasking machines, you know that Xerox can do more (way more) than make black and white copies of your spreadsheets.

Yet, apparently, few people realize this. And nothing cures ailments like these better than a rebranding.

For Xerox the logo may signal a new era for the company but, as far as we designers are concerned, it merely signals the full embrace of the senseless three-dimensionalization of the corporate world.

The Xerox wordmark was in serious need of an update and, letter for letter (except for the “r”), this new wordmark does a great job.

A wise move would have been to simply move forward with the wordmark, placing emphasis and importance on the word Xerox, which has plenty of equity.

But instead, Xerox took the marble-lowercase trend to the extreme. And sucking at it.

In addition to changing the typeface of the logo from all caps to lower case, Xerox is adding a graphical logo.

The new Xerox 3d logo is gelly, swooshy and looks very similar to a certain game system.

Did somebody say Xbox?

Of course, it’s not surprising to see Xerox borrow the design for its new logo.

Xerox is, after all, a copier company.

5. PizzaHut

Along with the new menu, Pizza Hut also introduced a revision to its logo back in 2014.

The main elements of the logo — the iconic hut roof and script wordmark — remained in place.

However, in the new logo they’re placed inside a smear of tomato sauce.

Pizza Hut Rebranding Failure

Pizza Hut Rebranding Failure

It’s nice to see a simpler version of the logo without all the gradients and multiple colors and it works remarkably well in a single color.

but there is something rather odd about the combination of those two iconic elements with the new holding shape.

It might be one thing too many.

I’m not convinced it’s totally wrong or bad as it now gives Pizza Hut another graphic element to use as a quick identifier.

The hut roof in the middle of the pizza roundel looks very odd.

The roof sort of needs the text underneath to look like a hut otherwise it looks more like a tagine lid or a hat

“We obviously have not been happy with the performance of the relaunch of Pizza Hut,” Greg Creed, CEO of parent Yum! Brands Inc

There is a single fundamental flaw in the Pizza Hut rebrand. I won’t use terms like differentiation, positioning or branding because companies like Pizza Hut confuse them and improperly define what they mean.

The issue is that Pizza Hut’s failure to change customer behavior (i.e., get more customers to choose them) was because it actually failed to change.

Sure, Pizza Hut came up with some new menu items, hoping to appeal to a more diverse customer but it did it without any fundamental knowledge of the customer.

Look in Pizza Hut’s mirror and what do you see? Cheap pizza delivered. Even with its rebrand, cheap pizza is still the only reason that Pizza Hut has given anyone to choose.

6. Yahoo

The new Yahoo logo was designed by the new CEO, Marissa Mayer, and Yahoo’s in-house design team.

Marissa Mayer is many things. A brand designer she is not.

There it is: the Yahoo’s new logo.

Yahoo Rebranding Failure

Yahoo Rebranding Failure

Had the old logo been introduced today it would have been panned for being too silly and child-like.

But we’ve all come to appreciate its quirkiness.

So what’s wrong?

Well to start with, in the context of a world waking up to the value of minimalism — if not flat design.

Yahoo! has managed to date themselves overnight by embracing bevels reminiscent of stone carving; a skeuomorphic ornament best left in the 1990’s.

They’ve based the logo on Optima, which may be a great choice for a lawyer, but seems deeply inappropriate for a daring young brand with an exclamation mark in its name.

What’s more, the team at Yahoo! have tweaked the letterforms badly: compare the original contrast on the horizontal and vertical strokes with the newly symmetrical diagonals on the ‘Y’ and ‘A’;

This is a large part of the reason the left half of the logo feels heavier than the right.

How did this happen?

“On a personal level, I love brands, logos, color, design, and, most of all, Adobe Illustrator. I think it’s one of the most incredible software packages ever made. I’m not a pro, but I know enough to be dangerous :)” — Marissa Mayer

How can we avoid this ourselves?

The first rule of branding, in fact, the first rule of design, is that it’s not about making something the CEO likes; it’s about making something appropriate for the brand.

Results?

Yahoo, the once-vaunted internet giant, is in shambles. Its revenue is in decline. Its shareholders are crying foul. Its prized public faces are scrambling for an exit, and the company has laid off 15 percent of its workforce.

Learn more about the Yahoo rebrand.

7. JCPenny

In 2011 JCPenny announced its transformation to become

America’s favorite shopping destination for discovering great styles at compelling prices

JCPenny Rebranding Failure

JCPenny Rebranding Failure

And that it would be celebrated with a “bold new logo”.

The new logo has been designed by Luke Langhus, a third-year graphic design student at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning.

That’s right, a company with $17.8 billion in revenue in 2010, has a logo designed by a student.

The new logo is problematic.

It may work for a modern art or architecture firm where off-balance is considered hip and cool.

The logo didn’t appeal to the middle class, middle-America segment that comprises the bulk of the JCP audience.

Oh, and also, forget all that complicated casing, just call it and write it as “jcpenney.”

The biggest problem I have with this whole thing is the perception that this is a “bold new logo”. It’s not.

As a design exercise, it’s actually very decent, it’s well spaced and nicely positioned, can’t argue with that but it is also a confusing visual and verbal nomenclature.

Are we supposed to call it “jcp”? What do we do then with the “enney”? Why the division?

No one calls it JCP, it’s always been “J. C. Penney”.

The logo was a failure and the company rebranded again in 2012 which led to another failure and loss in sales.

JCPenney has been struggling to keep up with which logo to use, still having most store signage with the pre-2011 logo, some with the new 2011 logo, and very few with the 2012 logo redesign.

According to the market research, the JCPenny logo awareness went from 84% in 2011 to 56% in 2013.

Finally, the company had to go back to its original design.

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Source: ebaqdesign.com