How to kill a brand in a week

Thought Leadership on Branding/Growth Strategies presented by Catalpha Advertising & Design

The Super Bowl has become a great opportunity to see brands testing new and daring messages. Do you remember when Doritos challenged their fans to produce a commercial for Doritos to run during the Super Bowl? It was a great campaign that engaged brand-loyal fans and provided valuable insight about their customers. Research and focus groups could not have revealed the same level of insight.1The cost to air the ads during a big event like the Super Bowl is expensive. And that doesn’t take into account the creative development and production costs. Though Doritos’ creative agency didn’t concept and produce the ads, they created the ads to market the contest to the fans. Basically, there is more than the airtime you pay the network to show the commercial, so a flop can be very costly.

The same is true for launching a product or repackaging a brand that has built traction with its customers. There is the expense and time involved in developing the creative solution. Some companies may invest in consumer testing, though many companies skip this or can’t afford hiring a company to perform research and testing.

Companies manage this task by having their best people in the process. These people have in-depth experience with their customers, they know the brand impression on the street and the goal that is critical to achieve.

The fastest way to kill a brand is to redesign because there is a new CFO, VP of Marketing or other position and they are making changes to make their mark.

I have seen this happen too often. Reconstructing is not rebranding. There are times when rebuilding a brand is required and brand refresh will not revitalize a dying entity. It is a matter of being honest about the situation and what is required. Most times a new C-suite hire does right for the brand. That is, they don’t make changes for change’s sake. The value and longevity is recognized, and changes are adapting the message and visuals to keep up with the times.

Lysol and Coca-Cola have been around for over 125 years. Coca-Cola’s logo has endured, but the messaging has evolved with the times.2

Lysol was used as a disinfectant and, during the depression, was marketed for another alarming purpose. The target market hasn’t changed, but the product is only used as a household disinfectant. I will let you look up the other use they promoted.


The logo was subtly modified but remains a script font very similar to its original look.


Lysol and Coca-Cola illustrate successful brands, brands that continue to endure because they policed their brand impression and honored their original brand image. Their objective was to enhance through positive construction, not distruction, of the image and recognition that has been built over time.

Marketing 101: Brand recognition is built with repetitive, consistent imagery, colors, messaging and graphics.

Now let’s look at some logo redesigns that failed. A picture is worth a thousand words. The errors for most will be obvious, especially if you had a relationship with the brand before they changed.


New Coke failed with customers. They used the new logo for a new diet product and went back to the classic look for their original formula.


Striking example of change for change’s sake! Tropicana packaging says it all. Why did anyone let it get so far? A new executive decides to change the marketing so fully that it includes dropping an iconic symbol that so clearly says fresh orange.

The new package was in stores for less than a week and sales feel so starkly that the new cartons were pulled and replaced as fast as Tropicana could.


Just like Tropicana – Gap changed back to the original logo.


Why did this cost $1 million?


Some of these mistakes were more costly than others. They all have a common reason for the failure – they lacked a strategy based on real issues that a logo would fix. Flat or slowing sales is not a reason to change the graphic look of your brand. A brand is so much more than the visual logo that is used to market. A contemporary font or trending color is not going to change customer impressions. Investing in your brand builds value that far out-weighs updating because you are bored with your logo or someone thinks it needs an update because it’s been used for 100 years.

“It’s time for a change!” is up there as one of the worst reasons to redesign.

When handled correctly, a logo can be relevant for 100 years and more. Tropicana’s design faded into the shelf. Customers were looking for the iconic orange and bold “Tropicana” font. When polled, the customers said they didn’t see their brand – Tropicana.

Even after a logo has been in use for a few months, it has built recognition and value. Marketing budget is better spent to build momentum than to change the design.

Building a brand requires a strategy that

  • shows the logo prominently and as often as possible,
  • visual treatment, use of color and fonts is the same across all efforts,
  • visuals and message resonate with the customer.

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