Miller Coors beer and the Gap apparel could have learned a huge lesson from Tropicana orange juice on how NOT to rebrand. I’m usually a very big advocate of “less is more” in marketing and P.R. I believe that shorter, bolder statements trump paragraphs of texts, especially in Web sites and press releases. I think you can say a lot with a little; and when it comes to graphic design, that is the case sometimes as well.
But the recent debacle with the Gap trying to change its logo was a testament to the fact that when it comes to your brand, less may not be more. Several companies, including the ones I named above, have tried to...i don’t know...appear more contemporary? Cleaner? Minimalistic? Whatever the motivation, none of these things were accomplished. The result in all cases was an insultingly simple design that was not only generic, but also an insult to the consumer [and fellow marketers, I might add.]
We are all aware of the impact that social media has on news and business. Everyone has a voice. Good as well as bad spreads...like a giant global wildfire. If companies are smart, they will pay attention to the feedback, and in this case, the backlash.
Tropicana was the first to make this very public mistake. Their original, familiar logo was brilliant: a straw stuck in an orange, and a font for the wordmark that spoke of tropical. This worked so well for several reasons. In a split second, the consumer understood that what was in the carton was:
1. Pure—nothing added to the juice from the orange.
2. Orange juice—not a blend.
3. Warm, sunny, feel-good—like being in a tropical place; or even on vacation.
4. You will get the same taste and experience from pouring the juice out of the carton as you would from sticking a straw right into the orange and sipping the juice out.
The new carton represented...a glass of orange, or something, juice? Not only was it easy to miss on the shelf, it didn’t say anything about what was inside the carton. And people were looking for Tropicana, not this new generic product. Was there high-fructose corn syrup in it? You wouldn’t know by looking at the carton. Tropicana’s sales plummeted. It was a marketing disaster that cost the company millions of dollars and perhaps their reputation, even if temporarily.
This was a recent enough event that the Gap should have never even gone there with their new logo. And the timing could not have been worse: In the blockbuster newmovie about Facebook, The Social Network, Mark Zuckerberg’s character spends most of his time in his signature Gap sweatshirt. Gap sweatshirts are cool, or were. Their logo worked as sewn-on letters on a sweatshirt or hat, or a sign for that matter. The new logo design was created with Helvetica Neue font. Really? So I could have designed a new Gap logo in a Word document? I’m going to apply for a job in the marketing department at the Gap.
The Gap’s brand is already suffering as it is. It is no longer that cool, hip, store where you can always find the perfect t-shirt and pair of jeans, and that was referenced in a Seinfeld episode. It is getting overpowered by the budget retailer, Old Navy, and the slightly more upscale Banana Republic. So, they couldn’t exactly afford a faux pas such as this. They would have been better off to launch a new campaign to reinvigorate the brand, instead of releasing a new logo. Consider the success that Old Spice has had with their viral ad campaign with “the Old Spice guy.” The brand has been revitalized exponentially, and they haven’t changed the logo or package design a bit. [Gap has listened and pulled the new logo. But the recovery will be painful.]
And I have to throw in the new logo from Miller Coors’s merger. (Is that Arial font?) Thankfully, it has not made it onto their beer labels yet, but it’s almost as if someone said, “Hey guys, now that we’ve merged we need a logo for the company. Here’s one that sort of looks like the top of a beer can, and guess what? It can be created in a Word document, so anyone can replicate it!”
If you’re going to rebrand, make sure that the new brand is current, not generic. Simple, not simpleton. Protects your brand, not sacrifices your brand. Says something, not nothing. Can be replicated on a sweatshirt, not in a Word document.