Branding Beat - Cut Through the Noise

What You Can Learn from the Best and Worst Rebrands of 2015

Every day at Quality Logo Products®, hundreds of logos pass through our hands. They end up on tumblers, t-shirts, stress balls, and other swag to help market businesses from startups to Fortune 500 companies. So, after more than a decade in the branding business, we know a thing or two about logos.

While branding and logos aren’t synonymous, usually a good logo is part of an overall branding strategy. Entrepreneur –  a magazine dedicated to startups, founders, and business development –  notes, “The foundation of your brand is your logo. Your website, packaging and promotional materials – all of which should integrate your logo – communicate your brand.”

Because logos are such a major part of brand image and presence, we heavily focused on logo re-designs when looking at how companies rebranded this year. We also looked at their marketing materials, ads, commercials, and taglines to see how the whole rebrand fit together and if all their efforts supported their new direction.

Ready to see who won the battle of the rebrands in 2015? Let’s take a look!

The Best Rebrands of 2015

Google

Google is the leader of this year’s rebranding pack. Not only did they come out with a new logo, but they also rebranded their entire corporate structure under the name Alphabet, with Google as one letter (or branch) focusing on their search business, YouTube, and operating systems. This rebrand was meant to help narrow their focus and provide greater clarity on their other tech pursuits, projects, and businesses outside of their core search business.

And while Google (okay, Alphabet) is becoming more readily known for these additional projects – self-driving cars, fiber-optic cable, and smart home appliances being among them – they are still most widely recognized as the world’s leading search engine. So in September 2015, when users went to their beloved Google homepage, they faced a bit of a shock as the Google Doodle of the day was an animation of the old logo being wiped away and a new, serif-free logo being drawn in its place.

google

The new logo, their first major logo revision since 1999, promoted their innovative and contemporary rebrand direction. With a slightly cartoonish feel, the new logo definitely fits the bright, bold, nontraditional brand that Google is known as. We’re definitely fans of this friendly, fun-looking font!

If you’re looking to make fans with your business’s rebrand, remember what Google continues to get right: streamlined design and a confident sense of self. When trying to move its brand forward, Google knew they had to refresh a logo that essentially had defined them. But they didn’t stray too far from their former incarnation (or even too far from much earlier logos, to be honest), but made it different enough to be current, relevant, and indicative of big brand changes.

KFC

KFC is another major brand that got a big update in 2015. Like many brands featured on our rebranding recap of 2014, KFC took their logo and branding in a cleaner, more contemporary direction. Gone is the bright red bucket; now there’s a bucket with red stripes (stripes are so in). And instead of the Colonel sporting his apron against a bright red background, now the logo just features the clean black outline of his face – a pared down version of the face that appeared on their original marketing materials in 1952.

kfc

They incorporated the Colonel into their branding in several video ads, too – complete with appearances by his new branded buckets and throwback ad materials.

 

The vintage, retro feel of these ads and the marketing materials (yes, a KFC bucket is both a vessel for chicken AND a way to market a brand) make their overall image feel less packaged and more homemade, steeped in tradition. While sometimes making a break from an older brand image is a good idea if it makes your business or product feel old and dated, in this case the older image  works in KFC’s favor.

Sometimes a good rebrand can be as easy as looking over your brand’s history and re-incorporating what’s connected with people in the past. If your brand is long established and working on a reboot, it might be beneficial to think about the roots of your company and what made your brand stand out in the beginning. Was it the personality of your salespeople or maybe your personal, go-the-extra-mile customer service? Whatever it is, you can play up your past while looking to the future.

TCF Bank

TCF Banks are primarily located in the Midwestern United States, but they’re a major financial force in that area of the country. They began in Minneapolis in 1923 and have over 100 branches in the Minnesota area (with hundreds more in states like Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin), and have commercial leasing, equipment finance, auto finance, and commercial inventory finance services in all 50 states.

Like the Google logo, the TCF Brand rebrand found the serif going the way of the dinosaur. Their new logo features friendly, approachable all lowercase font to replace their previous stiff, uppercase font and went from basic black to trendier gray. They’ve also nixed their logo-encompassing “swoosh” and added a distinctly swoosh-like design to the left of their brand name, also adding some red into the mix.

TCF

So why do we like this logo? Part of it is the flat design that was all the rage in 2014 and continues to produce functional, minimal, clean logos into 2015. The other reason we put this in our “best of” category is it feels lively and contemporary, like the customers it’s trying to reach. They’re a bank that’s been around a long time, but they are still connected to the here and now. In fact, the designers of this rebrand, the good people at Periscope, noted that the new TCF tagline (“In rhythm with your_________”) and logo strategy are about just that. They said, “The new strategy-built brand platform… provides endless messaging flexibility to be extremely relevant to all TCF customers — wherever they live, whatever they need and whenever they connect with TCF.”

billboard

The best takeaway from TCF’s rebrand is that if your message is about helping customers connect with your brand, your logo should reflect that. TCF’s change to a lowercase font and less-traditional color scheme created a welcoming visual representation of being accessible and allied with customers. Make sure your logo says something about what your company can do or what your business is about.

Verizon

Verizon began its impressive telecommunications reign in 2000 and has pretty much kept the same logo and brand appearance for 15 years, even as technology changed and it continued to add to its product line of cellular and TV services.

To be honest, the new Verizon logo is not universally beloved. Some find it boring. But one of the reasons this makes our “best” list is because the previous incarnation of their logo design was pretty dated. It was in italics, and the red checkmark and “z” were grotesquely large. An update was definitely needed and welcome. Verizon kept what made it distinct and recognizable – its check mark, classic black font, and touch of red – and modernized it to signal a shift.

verizon

The partner at Pentagram design firm said, “It isn’t intended to be clever or flashy. It’s really supposed to acknowledge its role as being ubiquitous as a kind of brand with a big footprint and one that isn’t trying to add to the visual noise around us.”

Another reason we liked this logo is that it’s flexible and can easily be adapted and scaled to any marketing medium like desktop computers, mobile devices, print ads, and billboards.  This kind of simplicity makes for better and more consistent branding.

The refreshed Verizon logo drives home one of the important commandments of design: if you want to connect with your customers, keep it simple.

The Worst Rebrands of 2015

MapQuest

MapQuest has been providing directions since before people adopted Google Maps and Garmin, but they took a wrong turn with their recent logo update. The brand, which admits to struggling with GPS market share, launched a rebrand to help market themselves as a still-relevant option for direction-seekers.

mapquest

Their previous logo had a lot going for it – flat design with fresh, eye-catching color and clean, sleek font that was easy to read. While the logo definitely stands out against its competition (in terms of being very different from Google or Apple Maps identities), it also seems like the kind of trendy font you might find a new hip band using – it looks a little like a slightly less ambitious cousin of the new Banks’ logo. And while trendy can be helpful when trying to reach a younger audience, their harder-to-read wordmark doesn’t create the hoped-for impact. This new logo text also seems to clash with some of the more straightforward, plainer text on their website.

While we don’t necessarily love the look, we have to admit we’re fans of the “MapQuest Your Way Out of Hell” ad.

 

The takeaway from MapQuest’s latest brand refresh attempt is to not necessarily go hip for the sake of being hip. Getting the attention of a new generation of consumers is important, but sometimes the approach needs to be a little more than using a unique font that ultimately just comes off as clunky and awkward instead of interesting.

Ohio

Believe it or not, states have brands too. At least their official tourism boards do. Successful state branding looks like the “I (Heart) New York) logo – one of the most widely recognized and iconic state logos of all time.

Ohio rebranded in 2015 and the results might not inspire anyone to pack their bags and hit the road to see the birthplace of aviation.

Admittedly, their previous logo was definitely a little hard to read if you didn’t know it was Ohio’s brand insignia. But it was approachable and had some personality. Their new logo – the word Ohio written in a hand drawn outline of the state – is a lackluster change.

ohio

It fits with their new “Find It Here” tagline – by drawing the state and planting the name in the center, you know exactly where “here” is. But their use of a hand-drawn font makes their logo seem a bit juvenile and unfinished. There’s a subtle difference between “fun and friendly” and “this is a place for kids.”

If your business (or state) is refreshing its brand, it’s definitely important to catch the eye of busy consumers and keep things interesting. But beware crossing the line between “fun and fresh” to “too silly to be taken seriously.” Unless you’re a toy store; then that method will probably work for you.

Best Western

While there’s certainly nothing offensive about the new Best Western logo, it’s also sort of generic and boring. Again, it might be better than some of their previous incarnations, but for a brand that’s been around since 1948, it’s hard to figure out why they’d stray so far from the imagery that’s made it so recognizable.

bestwestern

According to Best Western, their new imagery is meant to attract Millennials. While we think that a cleaner logo, like the one they recently launched, could help with that, such a huge change – including a completely different color scheme – might potentially alienate some of their existing client base. Plus, if Millennials are really the demographic they’re trying to reach, they might get lost in the sea of either more exciting designs or more minimal, sleeker logos and packaging (like Apple).

Their company might be going in a different direction, but their logo fails to communicate what direction that might be. More modern accommodations? A more streamlined or inclusive overall experience?  It’s hard to say. But the biggest reason this brand refresh gets a low mark is that it hasn’t been consistently executed. While there are several articles on the web that announce the rebrand and new marketing look, Best Western’s own website has failed to update any of its imagery.

So, if you’re rebranding, don’t be bland! It’s possible to go minimal or refresh your visual marketing into something more contemporary without putting people to sleep with your design.

All in all, some major brands stepped out with new looks this year. Some of them were immediate hits, some took some warming up to, and some left us scratching our heads. But if you’re looking to refresh your logo or rebrand your marketing, you can learn a lot from the hits and misses on this list.

If you’re looking for more tips on how to create an excellent logo for your rebrand, check out our suggestions from the QLP branding experts or get some tips and tricks over at Design Shack.

Who do you think pulled the best rebrand in 2015? Did we miss any of your favorites? Do you disagree with any of the lists? Let us know in the comments below.

expand your brand

All images are low resolution screen shots and the property of their respective brands. All rights reserved.


Marianne Chrisos

Originally from Massachusetts, Marianne has spent most of her professional life trying to survive the freezing Midwest. She is super addicted to the Food Network, but also enjoys good coffee, meeting celebrities at Comic Con, and naps with her greyhound. Her biggest claim to fame is having read over 100 books last year in 2014 and having once hugged John Barrowman. You can connect with her on .

Comments

  1. Kat D.

    Very interesting blog! I had no idea so many companies made changes to their logos in 2015. I think Google and TCF Bank made the right decision by updating their logos. I do not agree with KFC’s move, however. Colonel Sanders looks like a bobble head on a stick figure body. I also don’t like Verizon’s new logo…that red check mark seems to just be floating out there and not pertaining to the remainder of the logo. All personal opinion of course….I’m sure these multi-million dollar+ corporations have a clue or two in what they are doing 🙂

  2. Shauna

    Dude, what was Mapquest thinking?

    Love this post, Verizon’s new logo reminds me of Nike *swoosh noise* Just Do It, bro. Maybe that was some sort of genius plan on their end. You can definitely see the positive correlation between some of these big name branding icons keeping their logos somewhat similar to their old ones to keep familiarity firmly in the public’s mind but they also were capable of giving their logos a fresh coat of paint without losing some of the brand integrity they’ve worked for years on end to build. Thumbs up to Google/Alphabet and TCF for sure. =) I’m also craving fried chicken now so… thanks.

  3. Chase

    Another great article. 🙂 I totally agree with 90% of this. But I actually liked the Google logo better before. Yes it is way easier to read, but the new logo is a little too simple. I thought it had a little more something before the rebrand. But as for MapQuest whoever came up with that logo should be looking for new work. Thanks for another great article!

  4. Anthony

    MapQuest’s directions were always a pain to read, just like their new logo. Wow. But it is weird to see some of the most iconic logos in the past decade (Verizon and Google) change suddenly this year. It seems like a lot of companies are switching their branding options to something more simple than their previous counterpart. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is a huge trend with huge business logos.

    But I feel like Best Western and Ohio aren’t really that terrible, they are just WAAY different than what their logos were before. I always noticed a Best Western driving down the highway but the new logo will throw me off. It’s just not very aesthetically pleasing. Same with the Ohio logo. The original was pretty clever. Confusing, but clever. The new logo isn’t very unique at all. It’s trying to stay simple but it doesn’t catch my eye at all.

    So a few places I feel like can’t switch to the trend of the simple logo at the moment but sometimes change isn’t a bad thing. 🙂 Great post. I really enjoyed it! 😀

  5. Kelly Bird

    I LOVE logos! I could look at these best and worst all day long. Completely agree with your choice of best logos. I love the move to cleaner fonts and particularly like that companies that have been around for a long time are retaining a vintage feel honoring their roots while also making their logos more modern as they grow in the future. Great move by KFC! I don’t hate the Best Western upgrade but agree that it is so far removed from their past changes it’s almost in an identity crisis. Very modern change and I’m not sure that’s what they needed. The Mapquest logo change is way to obscure and they’ll miss the lime green. And Ohio why would you give up such a clever logo – that was a big Ohi-no. Great post and research Marianne!

  6. Jaimie

    This article is so interesting to read. I love looking at logos as well. I definitely think change can be good in most cases, but I don’t think companies should entirely change the look of their original logo. Like Kelly mentioned above, that is just calling for an identity crisis for sure. Something like what Google and KFC did is not so bad because it is still similar to what they have and people will still recognize it. But MapQuest and Best Western made terrible moves. They both look completely unfamiliar now. And MapQuest’s logo looks about as good as the directions they would give.

  7. Rondell Caraos

    Great Article… Thank you! Since being in this industry for a couple years now; I Have noticed some changes to company’s logos. Rather it’s a slight change or a drastic one, I always think change is good if you are a “known” Brand. I do like how companies switch it up if something isn’t working… sometimes not for the better, but at least they tried. Branding your company is a big deal. This is a great way to catch the consumer’s attention! Companies that have been around a long time have the ability to change up their logo after some time and not lose a beat, but I wouldn’t suggest a newer, unknown company to try this. I like the new Google Logo… it’s nice, innovative, but still keeping it true to their old look. I do not know what Verizon was thinking… I think their new logo is terrible!

    I think when a company changes their logo, they should try to keep the same concept as the old one but make a few changes to it. When a company switches their Brand completely… I think the consumer would be confused like it is a totally different company. The objective is to stay with the times and gain more business, not lose the ones you already have. Well, that’s my 2 cents… Either way, pretty cool to see these new logos. thanks!

  8. Erin

    I LOVE logos and branding so I get pretty excited for these blog posts! I’m always “on the google” so I noticed their re-brand right away and loved it. Being a big fan of san-serif’s, I think the change brings a modern update to the brand but stays well enough connected to it’s past look by using the same color scheme. I also agree that KFC & TCF also made moves in the right direction with their rebrand.

    On the flip side…..is that mapquest or pacman? Looking at their new logo I can’t help but hope that inky & blinky will enter in on the side of my screen! I’ve never seen Ohio’s logo, but actually kind of like the old clever and fun version. I wonder what Illinois’ logo look like…do we even have one? Lastly I think Best Western really missed the mark – it’s strayed way too far from their recognizable icon and at quick glance looks like it belongs to a technology brand. Their definitely going to lose a lot of brand recognition with their customer base.

    Thanks for the awesome blog and information!

  9. Jay

    I’d love to be a fly on the wall at the meeting where that mapquest logo was green-lighted. It’s god-awful. The Ohio one isn’t much better. If a customer sent me that artwork I would ask if they needed it cleaned up. Not that a ‘rustic’ look (or insert adjective here) is a bad thing, but theirs is just brutal. TCF finally got out of the 90’s and the KFC logo, well, I’m not eating there, but it’s simplified, which is ALWAYS a good thing. Everyone knows who Colonel Sanders is, no need to try and sex things up with multiple colors and trapezoids! I also have a HUGE customer who does a lot of marketing for Verizon, so thanks for reminding me to NEVER USE THE OLD ONE AGAIN!!!

    For the GOOD ones. Google nailed it. Subtle, but for real, about time they got rid of the serif font!

  10. Chris

    To be honest, this post reminded me that Mapquest even still exists. 😛

    I use Google products a lot, and it’s so weird seeing the new branding on the home screen of my Nexus phone. The sans font may be simplistic and modern, but the color scheme is really throwing me off. It’s the kind of thing you’d expect for a toy company, not a tech powerhouse!

    Really, one of the things I appreciate most about logo design is when they consider all applications of the mark. Flashy full-color designs can look nice on a website, but how do you incorporate that onto a pen, or stationary, or a shirt? A lot of these modern looks happen to work great with promotional products because they’re bold, easy to read, and only have one or two colors. Makes our lives easier. 🙂

  11. Jeremy Q

    Very interesting read! One thing that I am always drawn to is a company’s logo. Rebranding can be difficult unless it is done in the right way. I know over the past few months I have seen a ton of new logos for many recognizable brands (specifically Google and Verizon). I actually like the direction Google is going in. The change was not too significant, but they are trying to rebrand Google as they now have a parent company! The Ohio logo on the other hand is very unique. To me, I feel they tried to have a contest and picked the strangest submission they (I know this is not the case). Out of all the rebrands listed, I would say TCF Bank would win this one. The logo is super clean and sleek now. I actually used to bank with TCF when I was in college and my reasoning for not liking them so much was because of the logo (like I said, logos win me over). The older logo just seemed to be very outdated and it is great to see they are taking a move to stand out to those people that judge a company by their logo. Maybe I will reconsider TCF Bank again! Great job on the finds in this article!

  12. Jon

    I loved this article – I didnt even know about half of these rebrands that happened this year. I am still torn on google and verizon … but after reading what the reasoning behind them might have been I am leaning more in favor of thinking they were right.
    I still am not sure I like TCF bank’s – they updated it which is nice not to see the plain font and swoop … but it doesnt say bank or finance or “trust us with your money” – I think that marketing people need to worry about getting “too cute” when they are representing billion dollar corporations.
    Maybe I am just getting old – I am 31, haha – and fearing change like it happens, but I like seeing a company not switch their logo and stick with it and keep it retro if necessary. My favorite sports teams, Chicago ones mostly, are the ones that have stuck by their logo despite other teams trying to sell more jerseys and engage younger kids with fresh logos. Keep it O.G., that’s what I always say.
    Unless your logo is terrible. Then you shouldn’t have launched with it and probably have bigger fish to fry.

  13. Ashley

    This is a great list! It’s such an excellent variety of businesses and redesigns where you can give your aesthetic opinion of each new logo.

    I remember when someone showed me that the Google redesign. I was like “What!!!” I couldn’t understand how my brain had chosen to ignore the subtle, yet obvious changes. It must have redesigned for weeks before I noticed. Now that I see it, however, I agree that it was a much needed overhaul. Its simplistic design still allows for the company to keep their mainstream reach without alienating any of its search-crazy customers.

    My only disagreement with this one is Verizon. I remember seeing Verizon’s redesign and being among those who did not respond favorable to the simplistic look. It appears as though every business is attempting to simplify their logo to appeal to the younger ages. While it works most of the time, the red checkmark feels out of place and disjointed from the rest of its logo to me, and its lack of symmetry is off-putting from an aesthetic perspective. To be fair, I use Verizon’s service, and the redesign would not deter me from continuing forward with them. However, I feel like if I was a new customer, I would be less inclined to change my service to them, based solely on the logo.

    Overall, I think the most successful was TCF Bank’s. The most seamless was Google’s. The worst was definitely Best Western.

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