Three Major Branding Blunders

Three Major Branding Blunders (And what your company can learn from them)

 1)      Seattle’s Best

Starbucks acquired the “Seattle’s Best Coffee” in 2003, and just last year they decided to rebrand Seattle’s Best Coffee to a “simpler, more contemporary logo.” Specifically, creators wanted to put a modern spin on the brand and turn it into a more universally appealing symbol.  

 Simpler is usually better, except in this case.  After just one week after the new brand launched, 68% of over 200 respondents said Seattle’s Best should try again.  Respondents’ feedback went something like this: “People have classified this new logo as looking like a bowl of cereal filled with tears, or even worse, a blood donation center.” 

 Seattle’s Best got one thing right, though.  They really got the public with their rebranding efforts.  Seattle’s best realized rebranding is more than just sending out a press release, it is interacting with people and showing people what you and your brand are all about. 

 “To re-launch the Seattle’s Best Coffee brand in some of their biggest markets, Seattle and Portland, they placed big red refrigerators throughout the cities filled with ice-cold lattes and mochas. Genius! This simple idea has caused a buzz both online and off. It also shows the public that just because your look has changed, your great taste and price hasn’t changed.”  (http://www.dontdrinkthekoolaidblog.com/rebranding-seattles-best-coffee/).  In the end, Seattle’s Best had loyal customers stay with them, because the price remained the same and the coffee had the same great taste.  I believe this is in part due to the great marketing efforts and ‘gorilla advertising’ during the rebranding transition.           

 2)      The New Coke

This is a case where the product taste didn’t remain the same.  The second brand with a blunder is Coca-Cola, or should I say the “New” Coke?  What we can learn from this brand blunder: if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it!

 In 1985, Coca-Cola released a major failure of reinvention. “A small minority, about 10-12%, felt angry and alienated at the very thought, saying that they might stop drinking Coke altogether.” 

 People actually developed an emotional attachment to the look, feel, and taste of the brand.  People missed the old brand so much, Coca-Cola decided to reinitiate the ‘old’ taste and style.   Something we can all take away from this is: be informative and listen to your consumer’s feedback.  During the focus group, “participants liked the taste of New Coke, but were NOT told old would disappear.”  (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/23/business/media/23adcol.html).  Perhaps if Coca Cola disclosed such a pivotal piece of information, the product would never have been close to committing brand-suicide.  Needless to say, Coke reverted back to the old formula which is now ‘Coke Classic’.

 Coca-Cola (Coke Classic) is in the lead today though, being within the top five brands on Facebook! 

 3)      Tropicana

You haven’t really seen a Tropicana advertisement, have you?  Me either.  Yet, we all know the Tropicana box, with the straw-in-orange logo.  That wasn’t always their logo though – At one point Tropicana shied away from the traditional orange with a straw in it.  This new brand looks like something you would buy generic, at a dollar store (but the price was definitely NOT lower)!  Consumers stated that if the price would have been lower, they may have transitioned easier in adapting to the new rebrand.

 With Tropicana having such a great brand identity and logo that is instantly recognizable (even without the Tropicana name), it does not make sense why Tropicana would rebrand.  In rebranding, Tropicana lost a tremendous amount of brand equity.  I know a number of people who were not able to find Tropicana in grocery stores due to the change in trade dress.   Many described the branding efforts as “making it more difficult to distinguish among the varieties of Tropicana, or differentiate itself from other orange juices.”  (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/23/business/media/23adcol.html). For example, with the new all-over orange color, customers find it difficult to pick out the “heart healthy” orange juice, since the text is hidden by the bright color. 

 This obviously changed the performance of the brand power, and resulted in loss of equity.  After the package redesign, sales of the Tropicana Pure Premium line plummeted 20% between Jan. 1 and Feb. 22, costing the brand tens of millions of dollars (http://adage.com/article?article_id=135735). Shortly after, Tropicana ditched the new design.

 There is a lurking trend that these re-brands above have in common:  the corporations behind them underestimated the emotional attachment consumers had with the original packaging.  For instance, think of how we have all come to know and love the Coca-Cola bear and Coca-Cola Santa holiday promotions.  They are near and dear to our hearts.  IF you choose to rebrand, you must do the research and discover what your customer’s needs really are.  Lastly, re-affirm to the public that your new brand is of the same impeccable quality and value.

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Filed under Branding, Customer Service, Digital Media, Packaging, Vibrant Graphics

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