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 Quality Logo Products branding experts or get some tips and tricks over at Design Shack.

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

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