The five best, and five worst, rebrands of recent times

Short-term finance provider Wonga has had it pretty hard over the last few years. As the poster child for the quick cash market, it had been blasted by the media, consumers and regulators over its “misleading” borrowing rates.

Once heralded as the next big British business success story under the leadership of enigmatic co-founder Errol Damelin, it recently reported a pre-tax loss of £37.3m for 2014.

In an effort to try and regain its lofty perch, Wonga’s management team decided upon both a fresh logo and different approach to advertising. Gone were its notorious old-aged pensioner puppets and “slider tool” for setting borrowing amounts, and in their place a soft approach showing how its services are being used by “hard-working dinner ladies and mums”.

Only time will tell as to whether its, probably expensive, change in marketing tack will work. But it is hard to argue that something had to change. It’s new direction didn’t get off to the best start though when it was realised that the new kit of Newcastle United, a club Wonga sponsors, was launched with the company’s old logo because of a lack of alignment in design schedules.

Five of the best:

Burberry

There was a time when Burberry’s iconic cheque pattern became synonymous with the football stands of Britain. Decked out in both real and fake Burberry caps and scarves, football hooligans were nearly responsible for driving a British heritage brand out of business.

Fast-forward a decade and the hiring of transformative CEO and new global design director, reinforcement of the brand’s heritage origin and use of popular models such as Emma Watson, Kate Moss and now David Beckham’s son Romeo has seen it rebound in spectacular fashion.

While there was not distinct change in logo or colour scheme, Burberry embraced digital marketing though a partnership with Google and an acoustic music project with considerable success.

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Airbnb

While Airbnb wasn’t exactly in need of a rebrand, it hired a London-based creative agency to provide a universally recognised brand synonymous with travel, hospitality and sharing. As all good rebrands do, this got people talking and a considerable amount of column inches filled.

Airbnb’s new “Belo” logo was the subject of many Photoshop alterations shared on social media, but is “something anyone can draw” and is allowing the apartment rental site to go about worldwide marketing with the same approach.

In an interview with new Airbnb UK country manager James McClure in March, he told Real Business: “The fact that it is still being talked about nine months later shows the mileage we’ve got from it. Thinking about where it’s had large benefits, when you’re expanding internationally in places such as Asia, where we have a big focus, having an iconic name and logo certainly helps. We’re happy with what it represents and have enjoyed the various discussions on what it may or may not look like.”

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Apple

This one is looking a little further back, but it would be hard to imagine Apple being as successful as it is today if it had stuck with early iterations of its logo. Like many before and after it, Apple realised simplicity was key – coming up with a visual that would be memorable and recognisable throughout the world.

While still not quite on the same level as McDonald’s, Nike or Coca-Cola in terms of worldwide awareness of a logo, the Apple branding complements the sleek and engineered appearance of its products well.

Removing colour gave Apple a more modern and sophisticated look, whilst also getting rid of any wording meant it was free to become whatever business it wanted, selling whatever products it felt the public were in need of.

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Fitness First

Costing over £200m, the rebranding of gym chain Fitness First involved a new logo, website and user experience following feedback from customers. Getting rid of its traditional blue and white brand colours, red was chosen to portray “energy and strength”.

Having been snapped up by private equity firm Oaktree Capital Management in 2012, management decided on a freshen up to “redefine the category and help return the business to profit”.

The new logo and feel of the business has undoubtedly smartened up its appearance and, under a new ambitious CEO, it has rebounded from nearly entering administration and is bringing in a record amount of new members.

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Lynx

For any child growing up in the 1990s, Lynx became the smell of the changing room. Known as Axe outside of the UK, its recent rebrand was about making the brand more grown up and part of a male’s grooming programme.

It’s hard to pinpoint the start and end of Lynx’s rebrand, as it all began with its well-known adverts suggesting it was successful in attracting women. In a similar move to the one being taken by US brand Old Spice, Lynx has realised the older male demographic is a bit more lucrative.

The new Lynx black range has created a more grown-up set of products. Creative agency Elmwood came up with a new Lynx/Axe logotype, which features a break in the X “as a nod to men’s DNA”.

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And a weird one:

Google

Only Google could call changing one pixel in its logo a rebrand – but “rebrand” it did in 2014. For only the third time in a decade, a small change was made in the pursuit of perfection.

Every decision made by Google is done so with the bottom line in mind, so it is safe to assume that this was thought about long and hard and will have the desired effect.

In fact, once switching the shade of blue used on advertising links in Gmail and Google search earned the business an additional $200m a year in revenue.

Read on to find out the worst rebranding exercises.

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