Whether you’re a big company with global operations and an internationally recognised brand or a smaller company with local or national customers, good branding can play an important part in how your business is seen, perceived and remembered. You get a brand right and it’s like having an extra gear, a tiger in your tank (see what I did there), an advantage. Get it wrong and it’s either something that will be a millstone around your neck or just something that doesn’t add any benefit to the business.
Of course, a brand cannot make or break a business (unless in extreme cases), there’s more to running a successful company or range of services or products than a swish logo, but as part of a successful, well managed mix of things good branding is worth every penny. In fact over the life of a brand it’s probably one of the least expensive business costs in terms of what it does for the money spent. Once it’s established it works all the time, 24/7, relentlessly broadcasting the message, the look the feel, the core truth of a company. If they’re big enough and successful enough we use them as literal landmarks for our every day life, “yeah, it’s down there, just past the MacDonald’s sign”; they can make us feel or react in a certain way when we see them – religious symbols guiding their flock and reminding them of their rules and stories, in the case of business, Apple’s now iconic logo making people more creative. The point is, a good logo and well executed branding is important.
So, why rebrand? There’s always been a few compelling reasons ring in the changes. Rebranding has been around for a long time and it’s human nature to want things to both stay the same and change. Rebranding in most cases actually tries to do this, it tries to lever all the thoughts, feelings and good will from an old logo into a new one that offers something else on top of what has gone before. For want of flogging a dead horse, Apple’s logo through the ages has remained strikingly true to it’s first real incarnation by designer Rob Janoff. Through the years it’s been gently nudged, tweaked, re-imagined, rendered and polished to keep it looking current and relevant to it’s market whilst keeping true to it’s beginnings. The same can be said for America’s original sweetheart Coca~Cola. Think cola, think red squiggly ribbons that have been around in one form or another since the early 1900’s. These and other brands have been build on over the years, gaining visibility, becoming part of our day to day lives and more familiar than the faces of our friends and family. This kind of rebranding is more of a cosmetic procedure, helping keep the identity fresh and pert and attractive, but as with all surgery sometimes things go too far, things start too look a bit alien.
When rebranding looses its way it can be a real mess. Brands loose public visibility, people switch off as another change to something they once knew and recognised does another quick change and the single solid vision of the brand becomes a blurred, out of focus half memory. Few have managed to rebrand so many times and so badly than Coca-Cola’s arch enemy, ‘the voice of a generation’ Pepsi Cola.
Back in the dawn of fizzy pop time, Pepsi and Coke had very similar brand identities (and products). Both were ribbon-like scripts, both were red and both had the word cola in their name. Over the years Coke stood by its heritage but Pepsi took a different path. For the best part of 50 years it maintained the ribbon script but in the 1950’s it added to this a new and modern shape – the iconic red white and blue wavy circle. In the 60’s they took the next leap, gone was the script and in came a strong, modern and clean sans serif, cola was dropped and what the world really recognises as Pepsi was born. In 1973 the brand was developed further creating the best logo in their history. Iconic, simple, strong and unnervingly recognisable and fresh. This iteration lasted almost 20 years and helped cement their red, white and blue credentials and then…. and then they just didn’t stop rebranding. Since 1973 Pepsi has rebranded 4 times, each time moving further away from their best effort yet and stylistically kneejerking its way through the decades. And every time they did this they managed to loose more and more of their real identity to the point where their last rebrand (2008) was met with mostly negative opinion. Not the outcome they wanted, very expensive to implement and after all of this, still no.2.
And that brings us to American Airline’s recent rebranding.
AA are iconic – like Pan Am, they were blessed with being part of America’s greatest era between the 50’s and late 60’s. An era that built the legend of the USA big, in chrome, sharp suits, neon, hippies and wealth. Their brand looked timeless and yet definitely from a particular moment It’s long shadow, built up from decades of use was cast onto the States and international airports across the world. Like many great logos it was simple and recognisable and, you might think, ripe for a brush up, but beyond truly tampering with. Not so. AA’s new identity comes at a time when money is tight, markets are contracting, bottom lines are thinner than ever and people are cutting their cloth to suit whatever purses they have.
Modern and sharp and sexy, it’s AA’s answer to Pepsi’s itch that they seem unable to successfully scratch. Their new identity keeps tiny elements of the familiar but this reworking is to severe that if it was to look in the mirror it would struggle to recognise itself – and that’s the problem. In one fell swoop,
they have modernised but lost all of their heritage. Spent a lot of real cash implementing changes that will undoubtably not make any different to the bottom line. Created a new logo that whilst ‘cool’ is a limp wrested, anaemic ‘pop tune’ version of an America legend. A This is big, bad branding in the modern age, this is Justin Beiber trying to cover a Sinatra standard. This is rebranding because someone (probably in ‘future brand strategy’ with a point to prove) thinks they should, and like Beiber singing Sinatra, we all know deep in our guts he shouldn’t.
What do you think? Got an opinion? Let rip below.