5 Rebrands That Got the World Talking

Let’s start by getting the obvious out of the way.

Brands are not created overnight. They go beyond colours, shapes, and words. They even go beyond the strategy deck that orchestrated it.

Now on to the less acknowledged, but the more important part.

You don’t own your brand. The ™ on top of the logo or the copyright block at the bottom of the website might prove it technically. But in real-world terms, it’s the customers who own your brand.

By constantly engaging with your brand’s content and repeatedly buying your products, customers are letting out a space in their minds for your brand. It’s an emotional contract based on the elements that represent your brand.

This emotional contract turns a checkmark into a swoosh which becomes a belief that everyone is an athlete; an ‘M’ into a golden arch that promises easy, feel-good moments; and a unique shade of red into a drink that tastes like happiness.

So when companies go for a rebrand, they are essentially altering this contract. And that’s why the first reaction to most rebrands is often an ‘Oh no!’, followed by chants of ‘Bring it Back’. In some cases, the new identity makes space for itself, and in others, not so much.

Let’s look at some of the famous rebrands from way back to recent times and the reactions they generated.  

The One Where They Wanted the ‘old’ Coke

This one’s a classic (get the wordplay?). Coke’s sales had been slipping for 15 years in a row. So Coke decided to alter its recipe to revive consumers’ interest and backed by a blind taste test with 200,000 participants.

The result: over 1,500 calls a day to Coca Cola’s consumer helpline. Protest groups over 100,000 strong, songs and banners in tribute to the Old Coke, hoarding over $1000 worth of Old Coke and much more. Remember, all this happened in 1985, without any social media.

Image source: coca-cola.com

Within four months of launching the ‘New Coke’, the company withdrew it from the market and brought back ‘Classic Coke’. Coke’s official website narrates the story as ‘one that will live in marketing infamy.’ It shows how people’s affinity towards a brand can go deeper than the product itself.


Gap was finding it hard to keep sales up. Their flagging sales were coming on the back of the financial crisis of 2008. Like Coke, Gap also thought a rebrand would bring the customers back to the stores.

However, changing their 20-year logo didn’t bring them the expected results. Within just a couple of days, Gap’s Facebook page generated over 2,000 comments – mostly negative. There was even a site set up – makeyourowngaplogo.com, with users creating nearly 14,000 parody versions of the logo.

Seven days and $100 million later, Gap returned to its 1990 logo. The moral: not all sluggish sales can be treated by a rebrand.

Rebranding to Consolidate: Google Workspace and Meta

Our daily interactions on the internet come mainly from two companies – Google and Meta (yes, I said it). The two tech giants’ decided to consolidate their brands for similar reasons – to offer a cohesive experience through interconnected apps.

Google’s Lack of Visual Differentiation

Google unveiled Workspace by redesigning its G-suite apps such as Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive, and Google Docs. But it’s the use of Google’s four colours to create different shapes that got users reacting. When viewed together on tabs or mobile screens, it started getting harder to differentiate which logo is for which app.

Image source: bestmarketing.pub

Expected cynicism for Facebook

Facebook has been trying to brush off one controversy after the other. We can look at it as a journey that started in 2019. First, it unveiled a new logo that would appear at the bottom of apps like Instagram and Whatsapp. The objective was to create a distinction between the app and the company.

In 2021, they unveiled Meta – a rebrand of Facebook, the parent company. The rebrand marks the company’s focus on delivering social experiences through the Metaverse – a virtual space or presence.

The jury is still out on this one. Some believe this is a PR stunt from a company desperately trying to shift the narrative from its data breach scandals. Some others look at the rebrand as the perfect representation of the richer and immersive possibilities that await with web3. 

Setting Out in a New Direction

314. That’s the number of drugs Pfizer manufactures. A majority of them help treat life-threatening conditions. The pharmaceutical giant’s rapid development of a COVID-19 vaccine has been essential to humanity’s return to normal.

The company used this sheen to rebrand and reposition itself.

The new logo emphasises Pfizer’s shift towards curing and preventing diseases than just treating them. The new logo takes Pfizer’s name out of the pill shape and puts it next to the DNA’s double helix structure, highlighting its research capabilities.

There are more outbreaks of novel viruses, and there’s a greater need for faster vaccine development and rollouts. Pfizer has used its success with the COVID-19 vaccine to set the course for its future. It’s a timely and well-thought rebrand.

Rebrands Are Like Adolescents Having to Move Houses. Help Them Out.

No matter how good the reason behind a rebrand is, it’ll always be hard to get your customers on board in the beginning.

Like an adolescent leaving their old friends for an unknown neighbourhood, your customers will find it hard to leave their memories of the brand and will throw a fit.

As marketers, we must take heart in this expression of opinion. It shows that they care. And that in itself is a big win.

Take the customers on a journey with the new brand. Explain the ‘why’ behind it, show them the ‘what’s new’ around it, and be the friendly sibling. Help them settle in. More importantly, give them time.  

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