It is quite common that after a certain period of time a company changes its logo, modifying its graphics and characters or replacing it with a completely different one: these are operations that are called “rebranding” and are used to renew, relaunch or get noticed moreover. Hopefully the purpose of rebranding (which can be roughly translated as “brand renewal”) is to strengthen the identity of a company, acquire new customers and increase sales: in some cases, however, these processes have had a opposite effect.
One of the recent examples of a rebranding operation that went so-so is that of the South Korean car manufacturer Kia, which at the beginning of 2021 had changed its logo and therefore also the emblem on the bodywork of its cars. In the old Kia logo, the three letters of the brand appeared inside an oval, in capital letters and in burgundy; in the new one, however, they are always in capital letters, but in black and above all in a rather squashed and angular font, always without the horizontal dash of the “A”, with the result that according to many it is easier to read the writing “KN” instead of “KIA” ”.
As he recently noted The Vergeand as indicated by the analyzes of the specialized site The Drive, many people seem to have been confused by the new logo.
the new kia logo is so unreadable that at least 30k people a month search for the “KN car” ever since its debut pic.twitter.com/jRj25JoAPp
— Ashwinn (@Shwinnabego) November 17, 2022
The fact that every month tens of thousands of users search online for the keywords “KN car”, “KN car logo” or “KN car brand” indicates that Kia’s new logo is not immediately understandable. The Drive noted that online searches for “KN cars” began in the months following Kia’s rebranding and that the peaks occurred mainly in correspondence with the introduction of new car models on the market (for example in December 2021, with the launch of the new Sportage, as can also be seen from the trends on Google Trends).
Now if you do a Google search the first search result for “KN car” leads directly to the Kia site. If the search takes place on Google News, however, one ends up on various news sites or specialized sites that had to explain the confusion with respect to the new logo of the car manufacturer: a confusion that according to The Verge it also derives from the fact that most of Kia’s car models are not extremely recognizable or distinguishable from the cars of other brands.
– Read also: Where do the logos of Italian publishing houses come from
Not all logos clearly indicate a brand, a company or its products, but in any case one of their main objectives is to create familiarity with the public. In recent decades, however, there have been numerous other rebranding operations that have generated just as much confusion, criticism and even loss of turnover.
GAP is a well-known casual clothing brand all over the world. In 2010, following a significant drop in sales due to the global crisis that had begun two years earlier, the company decided to change its traditional logo, using a different font and adding a small square next to the writing.
According to Bill Chandler, then head of corporate communications, the new logo needed to be “more contemporary, a modern expression” of the company. However, the rebranding was met with annoyance and protests from GAP’s customers, who claimed it did not represent the company’s identity. In less than a week GAP restored the old logo.
In 2009, Tropicana Products, owned by Pepsi Co. changed the format, logo and graphics of its flagship product in the North American market, orange juice. The changes were widely criticized by consumers, who argued that despite a $35 million advertising campaign, the rebranding made it difficult to distinguish the company’s product from generic, lower quality brands. The Branding Journal, a marketing and advertising site, says that within two months, sales of Tropicana juices dropped 20 percent, which equated to $30 million in lower revenue for the company. A few weeks later the Tropicana orange juice cartons had their old graphics back.
One of the most recognizable logos of companies dealing with digital and electronic payment systems is that of Mastercard. In 2016, in a rebranding operation, it was decided to switch to a more minimal logo, which maintained its two typical overlapping circles colored in red and orange, but had the writing underneath instead of inside. Three years later, based on the idea that people used to using credit cards knew the brand very well, the name was removed from the logo: again creating some confusion and causing some criticism.
– Read also: 13 famous logos, changed
In 2009, the historic US food company completely changed the graphics of its historic logo, choosing another one which, according to various commentators, contained graphic elements that had no connection with the history of the brand and added nothing to its identity. After a few months, Kraft changed its logo again and began using one that looked very similar to the traditional one.
The traditional logo of the television channel dedicated to animal life stood out for the drawing of an elephant on a green background, but the more stylized one that replaced it in 2018 was considered not representative of the network or of the topics it covered. For these reasons, the network changed its logo again, choosing one that was a little more modern and more linked to the animal world, which once again had an elephant in the centre.
In 2000, after ninety years of activity, the British energy company British Petroleum, mainly active in the oil and natural gas sector, changed its logo and name to BP (for “Beyond Petroleum”, literally “beyond of oil”). BP was considered one of the first great examples of “greenwashing”, that operation with which companies try to clean up their image by pretending to be environmentally conscious, despite having responsibilities – great responsibilities, in the case of British Petroleum – in the crisis climate. Even today British Petroleum is still officially called BP.
In recent years, the rebranding of Pepsi has also been criticized, which in 2008 spent 1 million dollars to have a logo very similar to the previous one, or that of the internet services company AOL, which the following year, before being acquired by Verizon added an unusual dot at the end of the three letters of its logo, accompanied by graphics deemed objectionable by design experts. In 2016, however, the new logo of Hershey’s, the most famous chocolate manufacturer in the United States, was made fun of due to a symbol that reminded some of the poop.
Then there is the case of the logo of the London 2012 Olympics, which according to many observers was one of the ugliest in the history of the Games. The idea of the creators of the logo was to use a particular character to create a one-of-a-kind brand, which especially affected the younger audience: the result was a “2012” with converging numbers and protruding profiles (to give the idea of movement), but according to many ungainly, difficult to understand, unrepresentative of the Games and even vulgar.
– Read also: Logos and the Olympics: a complicated story
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