Rebranding efforts that Missed a mile

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Ashwini Deshpande, Founder Director & Head Communication Design Practice, Elephant Strategy + Design
Ashwini Deshpande, Founder Director & Head Communication Design Practice,  Elephant Strategy + Design

Ashwini Deshpande, Founder Director & Head Communication Design Practice, Elephant Strategy + Design

Everybody loves hits. But there are misses too!

It is hard to believe that even global brands don’t get rebranding right at times.

I know of two such examples that were widely discussed among consumer & designer communities that went so adverse that the brands went back to their earlier avatars.
Tropicana, the leading juice brand & GAP, the fashion brand underwent these misses in 2009 & 2010 respectively.

While Tropicana pulled back the change within two months after seeing about 20% drop in sales, GAP is supposed to have retreated within a week because of huge online furor among GAP fans.

Tropicana team showed amazing confidence in accepting its mis-judged design expression and displayed respect to the consumer who simply did not like the new packaging and expressed it vehemently by switching to other brands.

So what went wrong with the design?

1. The new design looked much like a store brand than the earlier design that showed more insights into the consumers’ world. Too much text, nearly no imagery & vertical branding added to this feel.

2. “100% Orange”… well, a Tropicana consumer was most obviously aware of this. Such emphasis on it nearly made the consumer lose interest in the brand.

3. With the new hierarchy and absence of images, it became extremely cumbersome for a regular consumer to pick up his/her regular pack.

4. Deep saturated colours became pale versions thereby losing the “rich-taste” cues.

5. Earlier logotype was warmer, more like a cottage brand; the new one had nothing ownable in it. It was just a commonly used cold font.
We never saw the failed rebranding & packaging because India probably figured way later in the change introduction.

Similarly, we are yet to see rebranded Pepsi that is now 4 years old in the USA.

GAP had a different story altogether. They probably hadn’t heard the saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

In 2010, days before the pre-Christmas sales begin, GAP changed its fascia overnight from regal blue to a sterile white, its logo from tall, slender cap serifs to basic Helvetica and a strangely placed square. GAP fans all over the works went furious on Twitter & facebook. In just a couple of days, GAP marketing team started explaining how this is a part of reinvention & how they would really appreciate if GAP fans contributed their logo design suggestions. In next couple of days they got huge amount of logo suggestions done by amateurs. This made the designer community go mad & fans even madder. Finally on Day 6, GAP just went back to its old fascia.

Often, when a large brand reinvents itself to align with the evolving audience, it tends to take risks and in the process loses its current equity consciously. There is nothing wrong in this and there will be a miss such as Tropicana or GAP once in while. But does that mean we play safe? And then, how will there be innovation in the world of branding if we are risk averse? !

About the author / 

Ashwini Deshpande

Founder Director & Head Communication Design Practice, Elephant Strategy + Design


  1. Sudipta August 8, 2012 at 3:25 PM - 

    As opposed to your claim that new Tropicana packaging has not seen reached the Indian shores, I had actually spotted the new packaging in a supermarket in Delhi

  2. Pratik July 18, 2012 at 11:18 PM - 

    Creativity & Innovation are the need of the hour. Everyone today sells products/commodities that are competent to each other. Its the X-factor that differentiates you from the others & later it becomes the U.S.P Rejuvenation is very important but outsiders involvement to what extent is acceptable is a real big question….

  3. student always July 18, 2012 at 11:07 PM - 

    Rebranding cannot be done in isolation of the legacy of the brand. One needs to bear in mind ‘the more than subliminal connect’ which the brands create with their patrons (aka consumers) and the difficulties in changing the connect points in the minds of the patrons. One way to achieve this, while still keeping the connections of the brand wired to the consumers brains, could be to do so in a stage-wise manner – small incremental changes over a defined period of time while gauging the patron response at regular intervals.

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