It’s one thing to build a brand; it’s another to sustain it.
A brand is more than a logo or a color scheme or a slogan. It’s the compilation of the visual and messaging elements that creates a distinct experience, impression and meaning for customers. But as a brand expands and evolves, its original branding might become outdated.
Rebranding lets brands update and reinvigorate their identity to reflect how they’ve grown and changed over time. It’s a chance to forge into new territories, showcase more of a brand’s social values or recover from a scandal.
But rebranding well is a data-driven art: it requires an innate understanding of the audience and a delicate balance of innovation with tradition. Of what’s new and impactful with what attracted customers in the first place.
Here are the biggest rebrands of the past decade, and what all brands can learn from the successes and stumbles of some of the world’s largest companies.
In 2018, Uber underwent its second rebrand of the 2010s as it sought to escape negative publicity and maintain its competitive role in the marketplace.
It first approached rebranding in 2016 (above) in a bid to save the company after exposés of a toxic, hypermasculine work culture threatened to derail it. It adopted a motto of bringing “bits and atoms” (representing people and technology) together, and used different icons for riders and drivers and a harsh, all-capital typeface. Well-received it was not.
In its 2018 rebrand (above), the rideshare giant chose a simplified, sans serif typeface that seemed much friendlier — conveying the experience it hoped users would have. Retaining the stark black and white color scheme, it followed a trend of other companies using their names as their logos, capitalizing on the strength of name recognition and minimalism. It also used this change to signal internal adjustments and the entrance into a new age for Uber, one that promoted a better work culture and leadership.
In 2018, the then-68-year-old Dunkin’ Donuts scrapped not just its logo, but the doughnuts.
Renamed just “Dunkin,’” the chain’s decision stirred up controversy from Twitter and marketing experts, who worried this would undermine its positioning. As a purveyor of doughnuts, it had secured a corner of a competitive breakfast fast food market. However, despite the outcry, the company maintained that its focus was on coffee, and its rebrand better captured that, even if it resulted in a few growing pains.
The new logo (above) stayed relatively true to form, getting rid of the icon and the word “Donuts” while retaining its bright orange and pink color scheme (colors that make you feel hungry and calm, respectively). Though the typography had been a point of debate during rebranding, keeping it was a conscious choice. “This is an own-able font,” said Dunkin’s CMO Tony Weisman. “This is recognizable Dunkin’ — you can’t get rid of that.” Dunkin’s decision to stick with what worked is a tribute to the power and importance of a logo. A logo needs to be instantly recognizable, fortifying brand loyalty and brand prominence across audiences.
Dunkin’ paired its design rebrand with a $100 million facelift for its stores and updates to its drive-through lanes to make it easier to pick up mobile orders. This demonstrated a clear understanding of changing customer habits and desires.
In 2014, pharmacy chain “CVS Caremark” announced that it would be known as “CVS Health,” to better showcase it as a competitor in the healthcare space. Combining the different service brands under a single umbrella clarified its dedication to offering affordable, convenient access to healthcare. At the same time, it announced it would pull tobacco products from stores as another avenue to promote better health.
One of the decade’s biggest rebrands was accompanied by a more modern and sophisticated typography, and the CVS Health Heart, a strong and defined graphic that captured its brand purpose. A shifting color palette for the logo allowed the brand to convey different services and information without losing a sense of the core identity.
When IHOP became IHOb — and faked a rebrand. The pancake behemoth incited outrage online when it announced it was renaming itself to “The International House of Burgers.” What seemed like an egregious strategic move was later revealed to be a publicity stunt for IHOP to promote its new burger offerings.
The faux change revealed the massive power of a rebrand to draw fresh attention, both from established and untapped audiences. It got the internet talking without requiring the investment of a complete overhaul. However, IHOP’s bold play is also a reminder of how marketing ploys like this can be perceived — and the consideration a brand needs to take to determine if its audience will laugh at the joke — or be pushed away by it.
Airbnb’s 2014 rebrand established itself as a case study for how to rebrand right. First appearing on the scene in 2008, the hospitality industry disruptor began as the nascent idea of two roommates. They reimagined accommodation while traveling — and revenue generation for those with extra space. While its first six years were a global success, with around 10 million guests across the world, Airbnb’s original logo hadn’t held up as well as its business model. Bubble letters against a light blue background were too whimsical and elementary in design for a brand becoming an international powerhouse.
The “Belong Anywhere” rebrand result was a radical change, with a clean sans serif font, an icon — dubbed a bélo, meant to encompass an “A” for Airbnb, love, people, and places — and a new color palette. Though the beló met with early criticism, Airbnb focused on showing consumers why they chose the icon in the first place. The redesign retained a nearly universal playfulness with heightened sophistication and a sense of welcoming. Though a significant shift, it retained the brand’s original identity and values of community and exploration while overhauling a logo design that it had long outgrown.
As Facebook’s portfolio of apps and services broadened over the decade, its brand refresh in 2019 opted for a simplified approach to logo design.
An unassuming, clean, all-caps font — with a shifting color palette — distinguished between the Facebook company and the Facebook app. The aesthetic conveyed the brand’s recognizability — we don’t need to be told what Facebook is — and served as a unifying visual for its various apps, from Oculus to Portal to Instagram. All apps within the Facebook family also included a “from Facebook” logo.
With heavy-hitting global brands like Facebook, audiences don’t need to be dazzled by logo or branding. They want branding that is confident the app or service can speak for itself, without needing to appeal to inventive fonts to attract users.
From its launch in 2010, Instagram got bigger — and bigger — and bigger. Its evolution justified three logo changes within its first five years (after all, it had begun as Burbn, a complicated Foursquare knockoff).
However, the platform waited to debut a larger overhaul until 2016, when it had amassed over 428 million users (in comparison, it now has over 1 billion monthly active users). Gone was the old Polaroid camera icon, replaced by a modern camera against a rainbow gradient background.
At first, though the logo’s appearance might have been well-received, users worried it might undermine brand recognition. But for a brand as frequently used and universal as Instagram, generating recognition for a new logo wasn’t an issue.
Part of the success of Instagram’s rebrand was that it acknowledged its core appeal. People log on for the user content shared, and a more simple logo showed that Instagram knew that those images mattered. “While the icon is a colorful doorway into the Instagram app, once inside the app, we believe the color should come directly from the community’s photos and videos,” Ian Spalter, former Head of Design at Instagram, wrote on Medium.
Time for a rebrand? Main & Rose has helped rebrand and reposition clients in industries from impact investing to luxury hospitality. We look forward to seeing how we can collaborate on your brand story.