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Should You Ever Undertake A Branding U-Turn?

Successfully establishing a brand identity is as much about persistence as it is about planning, and once you agree with a local branding agency about your brand strategy, the key is to stay the course, gather as much data about it and give it time to bed into the hearts and minds of your customers.

However, there are times when a particular strategy clearly is not working, and it is time to try something new or even something that is already established.

The latter tactic is known as a U-turn, and much like the motoring technique, it should typically only be done when one has made a mistake, realises they are going in the wrong direction and needs to turn everything around.

There are far more branding and marketing U-turns than you might expect, and some of the greatest and most prolific brands in the world have made a mistake, swallowed their pride and made it right.

Here are some of the biggest reasons why.


Tropicana Becomes Like All The Rest

In 2008, Tropicana was the market leader in orange juice and had been for decades. However, in an attempt to modernise away from their straw-in-an-orange iconography, they switched to a cleaner logo, imagery that showed the actual juice and a much greater emphasis on negative space.

From a design perspective, the cartons looked pretty good. From a branding perspective, it was catastrophic. The problem was that many competing labels and own brands borrowed heavily from Tropicana, and it looked like the market leader was regressing to the mean.

What made it far worse was that people genuinely struggled to find Tropicana, and actually complained to stores and the company itself that it was no longer in stock. The branding exercise lasted just four months before a complete U-turn.


The Gap Pivots Into Logistics?

There is a certain visual and brand language associated with different market sectors and attempts to modernise have to be careful not to divorce themselves so strongly from this language that they are not immediately understood by a customer.

The best bad example of this was the infamous six-day rebrand of The Gap. Gap is a clothing company that has a simple, striking logo consisting of three serif letters in a navy box. It is immediately recognisable as a fashion brand because of this.

Both of these elements were removed in a now-infamous 2010 rebrand, which removed everything identifiable about the company, featured an inexplicable gradient box and looked to the casual observer more like a logistics company or an IT supplier than a fashion brand.

The backlash was swift and severe, and within a week the old logo had returned. Other than a few alterations to make it better suited for versatile digital use, it has remained the same ever since.



The apotheosis of terrible rebrands, the Royal Mail’s rather infamous time as Consignia has gone down in history as one of the greatest brand blunders ever, and has since been used as a byword for cynical, poorly-considered, arms-length branding exercises.

After the decision was made to spin off what was then the Post Office Group and its myriad services (Post Office, Royal Mail, Parcelforce and so on) into a state-owned public company, its name was also modernised, opting for Consignia instead.

The backlash was swift and exceptionally painful. At one point Consignia was losing £1m per day, and the rebrand lasted just 16 months before the company became the Royal Mail Group. 

Even fully privatised, it retains this identity to this day.

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