Love or Hate? Our Top Re-Brands of 2016

March 2018
Melissa Sorini

Re-branding is hugely risky, particularly for brands that are already well-established or well-loved. Last year, several large companies took the plunge and overhauled their image, and we’ve listed five of the biggest. Join us as we pass verdict: who failed, who succeeded and who shouldn’t have even bothered?

What do we mean by “re-branding”?

Re-branding is a brand makeover. It happens when a business decides that their image needs an overhaul, resulting in the development of an entirely new look and feel for an already established company or product. Re-branding seeks to influence consumer perception by revitalising the brand, in order to make it more contemporary and more suited to the customer’s needs.

The five biggest rebrands of 2016

Several major brands decided to re-brand in 2016, and we’ve taken a look at five of the biggest players. Fab or flop? Read on as we deliver the verdict:

1. Pandora

Pandora is a popular music streaming business that has been around since the year 2000. This makes it positively ancient compared to some of its younger competitors, and it was decided that the company needed a fresh new brand to remain relevant in the minds of consumers.

The re-brand: Pandora decided to make a statement with a vibrant new logo and a bold new colour scheme, just part of a new strategy to increase their subscriber base by 182% before 2020. Not too hipster, not too daggy and positions them nicely in the centre when their on-demand service launches.

Our verdict: They have a huge challenge on their hands being up against the likes of Spotify and Apple Music in the music streaming niche, but the bright and bold branding might appeal to an entirely new generation of younger users who think that Apple Music is for their mums and dads. It shows a lot of promise.

2. Airbnb

Airbnb is a peer-to-peer online homestay network enabling people to list or rent short-term lodging in residential properties. They decided to refresh their website and rebrand with a new logo, which was developed by DesignStudio and christened with the whimsical name “Belo”. It all went well. Until it didn’t…

The re-brand: The re-brand was initially met with a positive response, until people pointed out that “Belo” looked an awful lot like the logo of IT company Automation Anywhere. And worse – it soon became a running joke on the internet that Airbnb had created a new logo that looked like human genitalia.

Our verdict: Oh dear. The creative team at DesignStudio sent four team members out to 13 cities across four continents as part of their ambitious re-branding process. The end result was a new logo that the internet mocked because of its resemblance to ahem… “lady parts” and another business logo.

3. Mastercard

Mastercard is a long-established financial services brand that recently decided to change their iconic logo for the first time in 20 years. Much has changed with the advent of digital technologies, and the company needed a fresh new brand to reassure consumers that they have indeed moved with the times.

The re-brand: The re-brand pivoted around the strategy to create a new logo that dispensed with some of the more dated elements, such as the drop-shadowed font. The team came up with a nifty new logo that kept the iconic overlapping circles while freshening and updating the font for the digital age.

Our verdict: We love the new logo. It manages to maintain the essence of what Mastercard is, with a nod to their history and a willingness to embrace the future as they evolve with new technologies. It manages to be sleek and modern, whilst also being reassuring and familiar at the same time.

4. Kodak

It’s somewhat of a miracle that a brand that relied so heavily on film and analogue technology is still alive and well in the new millennium, but Kodak have staying power. The company decided to re-brand after revealing they were venturing into the smartphone market with a photographic-focused handset.

The re-brand: Kodak did something very different. They ditched their fancy new brand for one that mimics the same look and feel of its iconic 70s and 80s logo – the one we all grew up with. The K symbol, distinctive colour combination and sans serif font all nod to a time when the company was at its commercial peak.

Our verdict: We love that this bucks all the trends and embraces the retro heritage of the Kodak brand, and the nostalgic appeal of this will be a powerful yet affectionate trigger to people of a certain age. For a company that should have died with the digital age, Kodak is the true comeback kid.

5. Qantas

When well-loved Australian airline Qantas announced that they were going to re-brand their distinctive “flying kangaroo” branding, hearts started to flutter. Would they truly dare change such a distinctive logo!? Well the answer, it would seem, is…. “no”. The iconic kangaroo remained, with some mostly minor tweaks.

The re-brand: You’d be doing well to spot any differences between the two logos in a line up. The new version features the same kangaroo with some mildly “aerodynamic” styling and drop shadowing in the feet and tail. Viewed on an airplane from the ground, there would be no discernible difference whatsoever.

Our verdict: The re-brand you’re having when you’re not having a re-brand. It’s always risky to launch a redesign of one of the world’s most iconic and recognisable brands, and Qantas circumvented that risk by updating their look with a few minor tweaks and a new font. In a word – underwhelming.

The examples here are a mixed bag of success and failure, which goes to show that re-branding is nothing if not an unpredictable exercise. From the glorious success of Kodak to the embarrassing failure of Airbnb, it goes to show why some brands – we’re looking at you Mastercard – only do it every 20 years.

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