The visual identity of a companies branding carries a heavy, heavy weight. Good branding can convey trust, goodwill, nostalgia – or any number of other positive emotional responses. Bad branding, however, can make a great company look out-of-touch, unintelligent or both! Typography, color, shape and space all work together, to solidify this key piece of brand messaging.
Unfortunately, there is no scientific formula that defines what “good” or “bad” branding is. What we do have, though, is a thorough documentation of the spectacular wins and fails of branding through the years. From these examples, we can begin to determine why things work and why they do not. So let’s dive in!
Nostalgia is a powerful tool. In the 1980s and 1990s, Pizza Hut was the “bees knees” as they would say back then… I think.. They had personal pan pizzas. They had the Book-It program which became the envy of all the kids who hated reading. They even had the Ninja Turtles, which in my eyes, was the ONLY pizza Michaelangelo would ever eat. And to “top” it off, they had cool retro branding stemming from their inception in the 1960s. That logo was retired during a rebrand in 1999, and the company’s subsequent attempts at more logos, as well as it’s popularity, dove into decline.
Recently, and perhaps due to Stranger Things phenominon and a healthy dose of that nostalgia thing, Pizza Hut resurrected its classic logo (with some modern alterations), and honestly, no one is complaining! The chunky serif and more symetrical design are pleasing and simple.
The now juggernaut photo app was originally popular among those who longed for the past (and a way to get away from their parents on Facebook) upon its conception, offering vintage filters that emulated analog film of many kinds. It launched exclusively on iOS at the peak of the skeuomorphism design phase and featured an old school analog SLR camera.
In 2016, as Instagram began to introduce new features, they moved to a more modern flat design with bright colors. Initially, a lot of people hated the change, as is common for big changes, but we feel it has stood the test of time.
Bacon and Tomato. Peanut Butter and Jelly. The font Papyrus and any beachfront business. Some pairings are timeless and are here to stay. Similarly, a stark, sans-serif font with some eclectic lettering paying tribute to Parthenon like inscriptions almost ALWAYS go with anything “Greek”. Greek restaurants, Greek parties, and especially, Greek yogurt.
Chobani changed its tune in 2017 as Greek yogurt started to move into popularity. They weren’t just “GREEK” yogurt. It was Greek “YOGURT.” Yogurt can be a healthy alternative and promotes gut health, so, by adding a warm and cozy green, plucky illustrations, and a chunky serif, Chobani successfully refreshed a brand that would go on to cover a variety of products.
At the top of the worst Rebrand List is the Gap’s short-lived departure from their iconic logo of 24 years. In customary fashion, the internet responded with a furor usually reserved for politics and pop-culture when the chunky sans-serif blue square appeared for the first time. Julie Weiner of Vanity Fair described the new branding as the “despised symbol of corporate banality,” in a 2010 article. About a week later, Gap changed back to its original logo, leaving everyone to wonder if it was a legit rebrand, or a PR stunt.
INT. CROWDED BOARDROOM, 2019
CEO: “Here’s the deal. Our holdings flatlined in 2006, and began on a 10-year-unsustainable nosedive in 2010. Does anyone have any ideas how to fix this?”
VP OF BRANDING: “…let’s add rocket ship icon next to our logo”
The late 2000s were a great time for rebranding. Social media was on the rise, which allowed for new ways, both organic and paid, to get your new brand to the people. However, the same was true then as today – don’t change just to change.
DON’T PIVOT JUST BECAUSE OTHERS PIVOT
While being excited by the possibilities a new brand could afford, Tropicana removed a lot of the character and personality that consumers had come to enjoy. This was something that millions of people saw on their kitchen table each morning. In Tropicana’s case, they learned VERY quickly that they shouldn’t change just because.
Turns out, there is something that rhymes with orange. It’s “20% drop in revenue.” A mere two months after the rebrand, PepsiCo switched back to the old packaging.