To Rebrand or Not to Rebrand

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How right was Shakespeare when he said, “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so”? If you happened to be within 140 characters of Twitter a few weeks ago, then the answer to that question would be, “Things art unequivocally and distinctively awful. And thee knoweth what, Shakespeare? Frankly, we’re all sick of thy metaphysical gibberish.” The seemingly cataclysmic groan that erupted from the Twittersphere a few weeks ago was concerning Instagram’s most recent rebrand. The photo-sharing app began to make its transition from an analog admirer’s polaroid camera, to a glossy, prismatic icon made for the modern minimalist. 

 And, here’s what the critics had to say:
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But, of course, there were more than a handfuls-worth of supporters in favor of the App’s change. Unfortunately, the haters are just so much more fun to listen to (which can be seen in numbers: look at those retweets).  

In lieu of this rebrand, let’s take a look back through the ever-evolving Marketing Anthology and at some of the world’s most celebrated, and not-so-celebrated, rebrands. 
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Like Instagram, Uber received a similar response to its brand’s reboot, some calling it a “disastrous rebranding”. Following the rebrand, Uber’s head of design even stepped down following the harsh criticism. According to tech-reviewers, Gizmodo, it looks a whole lot like a certain piece of our anatomy. 

In a way, it can be a godsend when the world reacts vehemently to a rebrand. Think of it on a smaller-scale: if you’ve ever made a poor choice for a hairstyle, or perhaps you attempted to revitalize the spirit of 2005 with a pair of grillz, that public feedback may be hard to hear, but it’s crucial in order to reassess and improve. How do you know when to change if there is no expression of disapproval? For Uber, despite the public upheaval, they’ve yet to make an effort to please the masses or even address the haters.

What about a well-loved rebrand? By this point, it almost sounds like a fairytale: Once upon a time, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were chipping away at the to-be Apple empire in a Los Altos, California garage, like a pair of modern-day Michelangelos working a piece of marble. In 1976, with the introduction of the “Apple I”, the small computer-tech company needed a logo to represent their sea-changing opus. And, here’s what that looked like:

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Imagine that engraved into the back of your iPhone.

It’s not a surprise that, just one year later, they went back to the drawing board and thought up a new logo. 1978 was the year the world was introduced to that iconically bitten apple. 

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Exactly four decades later and Apple has seamlessly evolved with the millennium. No need to change the shape of the image, Apple’s newest rendition of the logo is sleek, versatile, and most importantly: simple. The logo has undoubtedly entered itself into history as emblematic of the current era.

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Alas, in the end, most brand-based opinions often lie within gray areas, generating mixed receptions when it comes to rebrands. Take Airbnb, for example. When the home-share lodging company introduced its rebrand in 2014, people really enjoyed it. Their tag-line, “Belong Anywhere” was well-received, and thought to resonate warmly with consumers. That was, until, the Internet got their trolly little hands all over it. I’d urge you to Google “airbnb logo looks like…” but, I’ll leave that decision up to you. Full disclosure, Gizmodo called the rebrand “a sexual Rorschach test for our time”. 

belo-200x200-4d851c5b28f61931bf1df28dd15e60ef  But, this didn’t stop anyone from paying money to stay in the comfort of a stranger’s home. Since 2010, Airbnb has grown 353 times over, with nearly 17 million guests staying with Airbnb hosts around the world in the summer of 2015. 

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Of course, a rebranding gone awry can negatively affect a brand’s consumer engagement. But, more often than not, as @theyearofelan describes, The People will eventually build a proverbial bridge and proceed to get over it. 

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 Rebranding is necessary for a brand’s evolution. For a brand to thrive with relevance through the years, it’s necessary to propel forward. If a brand surrounds themselves with a skilled group of creatives, test-run the logo in sample groups, and revaluate what communicates best between brand and consumer, the brand could either make a beloved logo worthy for the ages, or at the very least, lessen the blow of impact. It’s likely there will be backlash, if it’s come time for a rebrand. It’s inevitable that fans have gotten attached to tradition. But, what’s even more inevitable is, like the good Sir Shakespeare said, “change is the only constant in life.”

1059 Creative, May 26, 2016