9 of the most important rebrands from the past year
While your company’s latest rebrand might not receive global fanfare or a heavily publicized unveiling, it’s still a crucial part of maintaining a healthy, dynamic brand. And while your marketing department may not be able to hire a prestigious agency to handle the redesign, it’s still inspiring to see how the biggest brands in the world are changing.
So, to keep you inspired with fresh ideas for your own rebrand, we’ve rounded up nine of the buzziest rebrands from the past year. Whether giving fast food a new image or rebuilding brand loyalty in the wake of a fallen spokesperson (Hi, Subway), each of these brands had big mandates ahead of them. How do you think they fared?
1. Taco Bell
After years of “Yo Quiero” and chihuahuas, coupled with the rise of fast-casual options like Chipotle, this well-worn taco chain knew it was time to elevate its image. So, for the first time in 20 years, they unveiled a new logo as part of a plan to become a $15 billion brand by 2022 and add 2,000 restaurants globally.
The soft launch of their new brand image? A new Taco Bell “Cantina” restaurant in Vegas, of course. Customers visiting the Cantina could shop branded Taco Bell merchandise, enjoy an alcoholic beverage, browse digital menu boards, choose from a tapas-style menu, and relax in a VIP lounge that no restaurant in Vegas is complete without.
The new logo, created collaboratively by Taco Bell’s internal design team, TBD, and creative consultancy Lippincott, created a logo that fit with their new restaurant strategy: one size doesn’t fit all. Their 1995 iteration was given a modern look, allowing for customization through patterns, textures, and different use cases. The rebrand was met with praise at launch, and Taco Bell is enjoying some good press from recently being named one of the healthiest fast-food chains in America.
Hey, if Taco Bell has managed to position themselves as a healthy option in the fast food world, we think that earns them a spot on this list of important rebrands.
In January of 2016, McDonald’s announced its latest rebrand. The company is no stranger to refreshing its image, but this one joined the ranks of all-time important rebrands by giving stores and marketing materials a look they’d never seen before. The burger giant began with new packaging, by branding agency Boxer, meant to act as a “mobile billboard” for the McDonald’s brand.
The company also unveiled new concept art for a variety of fresh store designs. “Simply Modern,” “Living Room,” and “Fresh + Vibrant” were just a few of the themes McDonald’s will roll out. So how did the McDonald’s design team convince the company to let them redesign their stores in the face of declining sales numbers? Max Carmona, senior director of U.S. restaurant design explains, “Our operations folks are starting to understand that design does matter, and not looking like a cafeteria does matter.” Time will tell whether a fresh coat of paint can repair the Big Mac originator’s image, but it’s sure fun to watch in the meantime.
The Huffington Post burst onto the news scene 12 years ago as the world’s first digital-only news brand. But the 2016 exit of founder Arianna Huffington signaled a new era for the site, and one that needed a new visual direction.
Rebranded simply as “Huffpost,” the new logo boasted a bold sans-serif font and a fresh take on the green color that had long been the new organization’s signature. Additionally, the slashes at either end of the logo can be pushed together to form an abstract “H,” which gives Huffpost a graphic and modern logo while paying homage to their goal of “bringing people together with divisive stories.”
The rebrand was lauded as a bold success by many, while others noted that the slanted typography pushed their brand “into tabloid territory.” But, as Brand Union’s ECD, Sam Becker, noted, “Huffington Post has the reach and history to redefine what those cues mean and take ownership of them.”
The rebrand heard ‘round the world! When Instagram quietly unveiled their new logo in May of 2016, some loved it, some loathed it, and most of us thought a new app had appeared on our phones. The fact that everyone was talking about it and had an opinion? That’s what the world’s most important rebrands do.
So why did they do it? Six years after the photo sharing app’s launch, it boasted more than 400 million users posting photos each month and 80 million photos every day. As Wired pointed out, “Those numbers boggle the imagination, and underscore how essential content is to Instagram’s continued growth.” It’s true, Instagram was no longer just a photo sharing service.
With a suite of sub-brands, from Layout to Boomerang, and a growing focus on video, Instagram had fundamentally changed for its user and its app design needed to reflect that change. The new logo was flat, clean, and let the focus lay with advertisers and user content. The app itself better integrated Instagram’s own sub-brands in a more intuitive, user-friendly way.
While they still haven’t lived down that algorithm change, most users and brand experts agree that one of the year’s most controversial rebrands was also one of the most vital and successful.
Another well-worn brand that hadn’t had a rebrand in two decades? MasterCard. Design agency Pentagram gave the credit card staple new website graphics, information pamphlets, a new logo, and more.
Their recognizable red and yellow circles were retained and the logo, largely unchanged since the company’s founding in 1966, received a subtle refresh to usher them into the digital age where the rest of the banking world was already living. The rebrand was another vote for trendy flat designs, with Pentagram partner Michael Bierut explaining, “We took their DNA and went through this process of distillation. With each wave of simplification it felt sharper cleaner and more flexible.”
How do you rebrand a brand that’s over 200 years old? London-based firm Design Bridge found out in 2016. Bucking the flat design trend, they gave the Guinness logo more detail and dimension, instead of less.
Design Bridge worked with real harp makers to breathe new life into the legendary logo. And the result, Design Bridge says, is a final drawing that could be built into an actual harp that “would work properly and be in tune.” The detailed logo stands out amongst the minimalist designs that stock beer shelves these days, and careful attention to accompanying script ensures that the consumer understands the history, time, and significance attached to every bottle they buy. We think that earns it a spot on this list of important rebrands.
With the arrest of longtime Subway spokesperson Jared Fogle came a PR nightmare for the sandwich chain. Already feeling the burn from fast-casual chains boasting fresh, healthy alternatives (which led to a 2015 drop of 3.4% is sales), there was no better time for Subway to rebrand.
The logo retained much of its same look and feel, but lost its italic slant making for a stronger first impression. The arrows were still part of the logo, but also could be simplified into a new monogram for their tech-focused division, Subway-Digital.
Finally, Subway launched their new brand to the world during the 2016 Olympics. It was a bold move, and one that reminded the consumer that they were more than “the Subway guy.” Of the new look, Suzanne Greco, President and Chief Executive of Subway said, “The Subway brand is recognized throughout the world, and this new look reinforces our commitment to staying fresh and forward-thinking with a design that is clear and confident without losing sight of our heritage.”
It may take a little more than a refreshed logo to wipe Fogle’s disturbing arrest from consumer’s minds, but most agree this is a positive first step.
Music streaming service Pandora has been around since 2000, and up until 2016, so had its logo. Pandora has faced increasing pressure from brands like Spotify, and in the fall of 2016 they put forth a refreshed brand, and a new subscription service, that they hoped would contribute to one of the most important rebrands of the year.
The new logo featured, you guessed it, a flat design … and not much else. It was called “generic,” “uninteresting,” and “grating to the core.” And while the accompanying monogram gave the brand some life, critics were still not impressed, saying “it falls flat and feels like it’s trying very hard to compete with the visual variety of Spotify, the street cred of Tidal, and the scale of iTunes Radio…”
Mozilla shared each step of their 2017 rebrand with their global audience. Whether trying to sidestep the rash of recent logo redesign criticisms (many listed here) or truly living out their philosophy that “the Internet is a global public resource and we’re committed to keeping it open and accessible to all,” their open-sourced rebrand certainly garnered some good press.
Early in the rebranding process, Mozilla shared several logo designs from London firm Johnson Banks online. They let anyone comment on the selection of logos, and spent the next five months reviewing roughly 3000 opinions, before unveiling their final design.
Of the new logo, Mozilla’s creative director Tim Murray said, “Because it has a portion of URL embedded in the middle of the logo, you know this must be some kind of internet company.” Their new “letters only” logo also allows members to attach photos, graphics, and .gifs to it, feeding into the “maker spirit” Murray hopes the new identity will harness. So how was this experimental new rebrand received? Overall, pretty well! Most appreciated an original approach to the age-old process of rebranding. And, come on, we all like it when someone asks our opinion, right?
Why Are These Important Rebrands?
While you may not be facing a global rollout and the subsequent critique of your brand refresh, it is important to unveil your rebrand correctly. Bring the right people into the process early in the rebrand, unveil it to your internal team with all the flash you usually reserve for the public, and make sure that your new brand assets are easily accessible so that everyone can start putting them to use immediately!