10 Branding Horror Stories That Will Keep You Up At Night

Rebranding a company well is a really tricky thing. A company’s logo and brand are the public face of the company – it’s what customers relate to and tinkering with that image can have mixed results.

There are many great stories about how a fresh logo or brand message helped revitalize a struggling company. On the flip side, there are also the branding horror stories. The cautionary tales of when marketing teams are allowed to run amok with gigantic budgets only to produce results that are laughably bad.

While these 10 branding horror stories may send a shiver down your spine, don’t let them keep you up at night. Learn from the very large and very expensive mistakes that these companies have made to make your branding efforts more successful.

Pepsi Overpays For A New Logo

It may or may not be surprising to learn that Pepsi has modified their logo at least once a decade over the last century. That’s in stark contrast to Coca-Cola, who’s logo has hardly changed at all. The most recent logo change for Pepsi was unveiled in March 2013 and the response has been, well underwhelming.

The white stripe across the logo is evidently supposed to look like a smile, but the width of the stripe varies wildly from product to product giving the logo an inconsistent feel. Even worse, it’s estimated that Pepsi spent nearly $1 million on this logo makeover. Money well spent? We think not.

Accenture: The Ultimate in Generic Branding

If you’re looking for a lesson in how not to rebrand your company, look no further than Accenture, which up until 2001, was known as Andersen Consulting. According to the marketing people at Accenture, one of the reasons they chose the new name was that it was inspired by the phrase “accent on the future”.

Well when you base your entire corporate identity on a generic business term, you’re going to end up with a pretty generic company name and brand. Accenture means nothing and is really the quintessential corporate business name. On top of that, the name change was reported to have cost Accenture roughly $100 million. I’d say they overpaid a bit.

RadioShack Tries Way Too Hard

In 2009, the ultimate dad store tried desperately to give itself a facelift and began marketing itself as “The Shack”. While RadioShack is great for a lot of things – batteries and dad gadgets most notably – it has never been one of the “cool” kids. And to be honest, that’s just fine – not every brand can be cool and to some extent, had RadioShack tried to embrace it’s nerdiness it would have been perfectly placed for a major comeback in today’s geek chic culture.

Unfortunately The Shack never caught on and the sad attempt to rebrand one of the best-known retail brands in the world missed the mark in a major way.

London Olympics Logo Leaves People Confused

While the Olympic rings are an iconic logo that have withstood the test of time, the logos designed for specific years have mostly fallen flat, and non more-so than the 2012 London games logo. Created by the designers at acclaimed London design firm, Wolff Olins, this mess of a logo cost roughly $800,000.

While the logo is definitely bold, the London Olympics logo has also been called ugly, ridiculous, childish and awful (not to mention some of the other descriptions which aren’t safe for print). It’s an eyesore that will go down in history as one of the worst and most expensive logos ever made.

Capital One’s Logo Goes Retro With A Swoosh

The phrase “going retro” can be a fun way of saying that a company is embracing it’s roots and getting a little funky. Or it might just mean that the company has done something to date itself by 30 years. When Capital One unveiled it’s new logo in 2008, it featured a bright red swoosh and the response was basically…crickets.

Including a swoosh in your logo design isn’t the worst offense in the world, but it’s been done a million times and hasn’t been considered “cool” since the early 90’s.

Gap Enrages Customers With It’s New Logo

Rebranding your business with a new logo is always a bit of a gamble. Some logo makeovers are done well and give the brand a much-needed face lift (see Apple or UPS). Other logo makeovers…well let’s just say that they miss the mark. This was the case with Gap’s attempt to update their logo in 2010.

The problem with this logo makeover was that it was so drastic that the change alienated and angered what was a very loyal customer base. Taking the iconic blue box and replacing it with a logo so modern and void of personality had both customers and the design community up in arms. It didn’t take long for Gap to see the error of their ways and they quickly reverted back to the classic, beloved blue square.

Burger King Scares Away Customers With The Creepy King

Oof – this one still gives me the heebie jeebies. Back in the late 20-ought’s, Burger King unleashed what I’m sure they thought would be an edgy version of their king mascot. The ads depicted the king showing up in random places, including some poor guy’s bed and the marketing efforts were targeted at young males.

Unfortunately why Burger King was creeping everyone out, their competitors – namely McDonald’s and Wendy’s were putting their marketing muscle behind product and price. The result was that Burger King lost market share and are now focused more on promoting their actual product as opposed to a creepy mascot. *In hind-sight, this one turned out pretty good. *2018

Qwikster: An Exercise In Pointless Branding

As of 2014, Netflix is both the darling of critics, consumers and the stock market with it’s high-quality programming and ultra-accessible streaming services. The term “Netflix binge” has become part of the American lexicon and very much appears to be exactly what consumers want.

However, there was a time when Netflix was just a small DVD-by-mail service. Once streaming started overtaking the DVD portion of the business, the higher ups at Netflix got it into their heads that they needed to create a completely separate brand for the DVD portion called Qwikster. Besides being an incredibly stupid name, establishing a new brand was completely unnecessary. After the immediate backlash, the folks at Netflix quickly came to their senses and Qwikster died a quiet death.

Tropicana Ditches The Orange And Gets Ditched By Customers

For decades, the iconic image of an orange with a straw shoved in has been proudly featured on the Tropicana orange juice containers. It’s a clever image that was not only embraced by consumers, but helped make Tropicana the biggest and most well-known orange juice brand in the United States.

Then the folks at Tropicana got it into their heads that they needed a fresh, modern look and updated their logo and packaging. The redesign can really only be described as “grocery store generic” and was panned across the board. The result was that Tropicana’s sales dropped 20% and just a few short months later the classic look was resurrected.

New Coke Causes Mass Hysteria And Rioting

One of the most well-known branding blunders came from one of the most iconic brands in the world. In 1985, Coca-Cola was losing market share to a sweeter-tasting, more hip Pepsi and decided that it was time for a new look and a new recipe. They scrapped the old classic Coca-Cola recipe and with high hopes, launched New Coke. And then all hell broke loose.

The Coke-drinking public revolted. People started buying the classic version en masse and hoarding it and protest groups were formed. Fortunately it didn’t take long for Coca-Cola to course-correct and a mere 79 days after the much-vaunted launch of New Coke, Coca-Cola classic was reborn with a surge in sales.