Inattentional Consumer: Part 5

Four Reasons Brand Redesigns Fail:

Insights and Famous Examples

Redesigning a brand is a pivotal moment for any company. It’s an opportunity to refresh the company’s image, realign its identity with its evolved vision, and reposition itself in the market. However, it’s fair to say that not all brand redesigns lead to success. Despite the best intentions, many rebranding efforts fall flat or even backfire, causing confusion among consumers, diluting brand equity, or straying too far from the brand’s core identity. Drawing on years of observation and analysis, we explore the top five reasons brand redesigns can fail, illustrated by notable examples.

1. Losing Sight of the Brand’s Core Identity

One of the most common pitfalls in brand redesign is drifting too far from the brand’s original essence. A brand’s identity is its heartbeat, reflecting its values, mission, and the emotional connection it has with its audience. When a redesign neglects these core elements, it risks alienating existing customers who feel a deep affinity for what the brand originally stood for.

Example: Tropicana’s 2009 packaging redesign is a classic cautionary tale about losing brand identity. The original packaging, recognisable for its orange-with-a-straw image, symbolised freshness and was instantly recognisable to consumers. The redesign swapped this for a generic glass of orange juice, stripping away the brand’s unique visual identity and emotional connection. This led to consumer confusion, as the new design was unrecognisable on store shelves, resulting in a significant 20% sales drop within just two months. The backlash was swift and decisive, forcing Tropicana to revert to its original design. This episode underscored the critical importance of brand elements that resonate with and are valued by consumers, highlighting how drastic changes can alienate loyal customers and damage a brand’s equity.






Example: Royal Mail’s attempt in 2001 to rebrand itself as “Consignia” is a prime example of a rebranding effort that was met with widespread criticism. The rebrand was intended to reflect the company’s expansion into logistics and express parcels. However, the new name and brand identity were not well received by the public or employees, who saw no need for change from the historically significant and trusted Royal Mail brand. The negative response was so strong that the company reverted to its original branding a year later.

2. Underestimating the Audience’s Attachment to the Old Brand

Companies often underestimate how deeply customers are attached to the current brand’s design elements. This emotional bond is powerful, and drastic changes can be perceived as a loss by loyal customers.

Example: Gap’s 2010 logo redesign attempt is a perfect illustration. Gap attempted a logo redesign that replaced its iconic blue box logo with a more minimalist design. The redesign was intended to modernise the brand but was met with immediate backlash from customers and branding experts alike, who felt the new logo lacked character and connection to the brand’s heritage. The criticism was so severe that, within a single week, Gap quickly reverted to its original logo, acknowledging that they had underestimated the attachment their customers had to the original design.





3. Neglecting Market Research and Customer Feedback

Skipping thorough market research and not seeking or ignoring customer feedback before rolling out a major redesign can lead to disastrous outcomes. Understanding how customers perceive the brand and what they value in it is crucial for a successful redesign.

Example: In 2010, MasterCard introduced a new logo that simplified its iconic brand elements. However, unlike some failed rebrands, this change was well-received, largely because it was based on extensive research and retained the brand’s core visual identity, showing the importance of understanding customer sentiment.

4. Following Trends at the Expense of Authenticity

While it’s important to stay current, blindly following design trends can make a brand appear insincere and transient. A redesign should reflect the brand’s genuine evolution and not just a superficial attempt to appear trendy.

Example: In 2012, Jaguar introduced a new branding strategy and redesigned its logo to reflect its luxury and performance ethos more strongly. The updated logo featured a more prominent and stylized leaping jaguar and a more refined typeface. This rebranding was part of a broader effort to rejuvenate the brand and appeal to a younger demographic while maintaining its heritage. The Jaguar example demonstrates how subtle changes can modernise a brand without losing its established identity and appeal.




A successful brand redesign requires a delicate balance between innovation and tradition, capturing the essence of the brand while propelling it into the future. It should be rooted in deep understanding of the brand’s history, its audience’s expectations, and the broader cultural context. Companies considering a rebranding exercise should take heed of these lessons from past failures to navigate their way towards a successful brand evolution.

By Duncan Smith

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