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lo-res_266687423-s-2A wide range of brands have recently unveiled new looks, from condiments, to beers, to cookies, to retailers. The logic seemingly stems from the recognition that consumers have grown a bit bored, staring at the same four walls of their work-from-home offices during the coronavirus lockdowns, as well as at the same products being delivered regularly to their homes. Without much variety, consumers were getting annoyed. To appeal to them and get them more excited about those boring-seeming brands, various manufacturers have introduced new logos and packaging.

But is that the best reason? That is, a rebranding effort demands a lot of resources, monetary and otherwise. The company must investigate what new logos will appeal to consumers, enable them to keep finding the brand on shelves or ecommerce pages, and reflect the brand’s identity. It also needs to avoid any new imagery that might evoke, even if unintentionally, offensive connotations. Finally, the rollout of a rebranding effort is expensive, requiring revisions to packaging, advertising, and websites so that the brand’s appearance and image is consistent across channels.

Beyond these costs, refreshes create a substantial risk for brands, namely, the risk that consumers will hate the new look. If the brand does not conduct sufficient market research to determine whether buyers really want something new, it may wind up building a new brand look that drives people away, rather than attracting their attention. The pandemic might encourage revisions, but a brand refresh also needs to be justified by other changes, such as shifts in the target market, a newly introduced feature to the branded product or service, or a merger or acquisition of another brand entity.

Other rebranding efforts might be evoked by other societal trends too. For example, removals of outdated and discriminatory depictions and mascots from the packaging of Land O’ Lakes butter or Aunt Jemima syrup reflect greater cultural sensitivity and ethical considerations related to historical patterns of racism. In such cases, some consumers still complain, but the long-term positioning of the brand is likely to be more appropriate and accepted. In this case, the macroenvironmental driver of the rebranding is something that has been building for years, rather than a crisis that came on quickly and, we hope, will dissipate over time.

But a contradictory outcome is possible too, as Amazon learned recently. When it revised its brand logo, from a shopping cart to a representation of packaging tape, with a jagged edge, presented above its long-standing “smiling” arrow, the result appeared jarringly like Adolph Hitler’s mustache to many viewers. The negative responses were rapid and intense. What Amazon had planned as a simple logo refresh backfired terribly, requiring the firm to repeat its efforts and increase the related costs to revise the logo again.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are good reasons for a rebranding effort?
  2. What are insufficient reasons?
  3. Consider a brand that you buy regularly that has undergone a rebranding (some examples include Keebler cookies, Smuckers jam, and Heinz condiments). Do you find the new logo and packaging appealing? Did it grab your attention when you first saw it?

Source: Shane Schick, “2020’s Bevy of Brand Refreshes Reflect New Marketing Mandates,” Marketing Dive, October 26, 2020; Christine Hauser, “Amazon Quietly Tweaks Logo Some Say Resembled Hitler’s Mustache,” The New York Times, March 3, 2021