24th July 2015

When is a Rebrand not a Rebrand?

(Answer: When it’s a technical tweak of the logo) OK, not very funny, but then branding is a serious business.

A logo is usually (although not always) the most publicly recognisable representation of a brand – instantly identifiable from across a street or a supermarket aisle. Not the only element of a brand experience, but a very important visual one.

There have been a number of widely reported ‘rebrands’ recently from Facebook to the 30 Days of Change heralding Yahoo’s new look logo. And there are many more examples. But these are nothing new in the evolution of brands’ visual identity. Subtle changes are made to logos all the time, often without Joe Public noticing a damn thing. These are done to maintain, strengthen or address brand perceptions. Issues of modernity or friendliness and approachability are common reasons for change. It’s the extreme cases that usually cause most comment because they cost so much (the BT piper) or reflect a huge shift in social attitudes (the Robertson’s golly).

So why the fuss over the Facebook tweak? It’s just one of a significant number of brands that have simplified their logo design. Google and ebay have done exactly the same thing. The reason is a shift in design style as branding moves beyond print and packaging to web and mobile. These new platforms are much more diverse in presentation than grocery store shelves, 48 sheet posters and double page spreads. Logo design needs to be responsive and flexible. Hence the rush to flatter shapes and colours, simpler lines, and wider spacing – all features of logos that translate well from mobile to web to print, unifying design across platforms.

Many old logos haven’t adjusted well to these new media and sit awkwardly in app icons and mobile browsers, leaving them looking like new tech has passed them by.

However, change is not always welcome. Some logo redesigns received such strong reactions from their customers the redesign was pulled after launch. Gap and Tropicana are two examples that reverted to their original logos in a matter of days.

These (very expensive and embarrassing) climb downs or unwelcome Twitter storms can be avoided if two fundamental principles are applied. Firstly, be true to your brand and secondly, communicate with your audience. Prepare them for the change and explain why you’re doing it. Simples.

Adele Wilson, Head of Insight and Planning

A look at some famous/notorious logo redesigns over the years

Gap

Gap’s logo redesign received a notoriously critical backlash, and was scrapped almost immediately. In an interesting turn of events, Gap actually asked the public for their own redesigns following the negative reaction to the new logo, but ended up reversing that decision and keeping the original iconic logo.

Old:

rebrand_1

New:

rebrand_2

Microsoft Windows

Windows has gone through more logos in the past two decades than any other tech company. The Windows blog actually has a very interesting overview of every logo, which accurately reflects larger cultural design trends, from the original blue and grey rarely remembered, to the 8-bit pixelated version that defined 1990s tech style, to the most recent sleek and flat Windows 8 logo.

Windows 3.1:

rebrand_3

Windows Vista:

rebrand_4

Windows 8:

rebrand_5

eBay

ebay’s logo redesign was subtle, but it is indicative of the larger shift in design trends.  The letters are now all lower-case, have lost any overlap, and became uniform in size and shape. The new logo works with all kinds of different media, but successfully retained much of its old character.

Old: 

rebrand_6

New:

rebrand_7

Tropicana 

Tropicana’s new logo suffered a similar fate to Gap’s – consumers were upset with the change and reacted negatively, necessitating a complete return to the original logo. Interestingly, Tropicana’s new designs were very on point with the modern flat design trend, but consumers didn’t trust the new packaging – how do you know it’s orange juice if there’s no actual orange fruit on the carton?

Old:

rebrand_8

New (scrapped):

rebrand_9