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5 Examples of Bad Branding and How to Avoid Tarnishing Your Image

Jul 1
4 min read

5 Examples of Bad Branding and How to Avoid Tarnishing Your Image


Bad branding can cost a company millions. Think that we’re exaggerating? When GAP changed their logo back in 2010, their seven-day rebranding effort cost them around $100 million.

Companies that make branding mistakes are risking not only their reputation but the existence of their company. The best way to learn about brand failures is to look at historic examples under the microscope. What mistakes did they make and how can you avoid them?

In this guide, we’re going to take a look at some examples of bad branding from across the decades. We’ll see what the companies did wrong and how you can avoid making similar mistakes.

Ready to ensure you’ve got a well-maintained brand? Then keep reading.

1. GAP’s Logo Change

Let’s take a more in-depth look at why it was so wrong of GAP to change its logo. When you picture the GAP logo, you see the dark background and elongated white letters, don’t you?

Well, so did everybody else.

Then GAP changed their logo almost overnight to a version with rounded letters and a plain white background. The only concession to their prior logo was a small blue square in the upper right of the logo.

The huge problem with this is that a logo’s design is how you identify a store. If you were to see the new logo, what’s to stop you from assuming that it’s not another store with the same name?

GAP didn’t run a campaign announcing the change or anything like that. It just happened. 

The result was anger on the part of loyal customers and mockery on the part of almost everyone else. GAP swiftly changed its logo back to the old one, costing millions of dollars in the process.

The lesson to be learned from this bad branding blunder? If you want to change a logo, run a campaign, and announce it well in advance.

2. New Coke

Branding mistakes don’t come much larger than New Coke. These two words are synonymous with marketing failures in most people’s minds. So what made New Coke such a tremendous problem?

In the 1950s, Coca-Cola was the one cola brand that conquered the world. Pepsi started making waves in the 1960s. Consumers seemed to prefer its sweeter taste.

The Pepsi Challenge commercials weren’t only a marketing coup. They were also based in fact: consumers did prefer Pepsi to Coke.

This gave Coca-Cola a problematic dilemma. How would they win back territory lost to Pepsi? The answer was to make Coke sweeter and New Coke was born.

The reason that New Coke was such failure lies in the swift and sudden change to Coke. There was no transitional period nor was there the option to drink classic Coke. There was New Coke and you had to like it.

When you’re in charge of a brand as famous and celebrated as Coca-Cola, with a marketing legacy rooted in ads like “I’d like to buy the world a Coke,” you can’t just throw it all away. If you want to change an established brand, use a transitional period, and keep the old product on the market. 

3. Fire Phone: Failure to Ignite

The world of tech is as susceptible as any other industry when it comes to branding fails. A tech company’s brand design is important. This is something that Amazon failed to grasp when it launched the Fire Phone. 

When they launched this product in 2014, they presumably had expectations that the Fire Phone would be the next iPhone. They were very badly mistaken. 

There was nothing technically wrong with the Fire Phone. It worked okay and was technically competent. What made this phone a failure was ignorance of branding.

Why do you shop on Amazon? One of the key reasons you shop there is probably their low prices. The Fire Phone was about as expensive as an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy.

The wide variety of choices that Amazon offers? Not present in the Fire Phone which featured a small and lackluster app store.

This misunderstanding of their cachet, as well as being late to market with the Fire Phone, led to a huge loss for Amazon. If you’re going to market a new product, understand what customers expect of you.

4. Burger King’s Unsatisfying Satisfries

Do you remember Satisfries? If you don’t, it’s understandable. In 2013, Burger King introduced Satisfries to their restaurants: in essence, these were low-calorie fries.

Diet culture and the diet food industry are both huge. You’d imagine that Satisfries would be a big success. Yet hardly anyone bought them and Burger King withdrew them from their restaurants soon after.

The key contributing factor to the Satisfries’ failure is a lack of general customer awareness. You’d probably not heard of them until now or remembered them as a passing memory. 

It’s the same issue that GAP had on a smaller scale. If you’re going to add something to your catalog or menu, you need to run a campaign and make customers aware. 

5. HSBC’s Translation Problems

HSBC is a huge multinational. You would imagine that if anyone could nail translation, it would be them. Yet HSBC made one of the most fundamental branding mistakes possible: poor translation.

In 2009, the company’s translated its slogan “assume nothing” into a huge number of languages. The issue was that its translators translated the slogan as “do nothing.”

As you could imagine, this is not the slogan that HSBC wanted to send. The lesson to learn from this is simple. If you want to carry out business around the world, ensure that your translations are correct.

Avoiding Bad Branding

We’ve shown you several examples of bad branding from across various industries and several decades. If you want to avoid bad branding, we can help you.

We’re experts in helping companies launch their products and services in new regions. As such, we can make sure that your branding remains consistent and successful.

For more information about our products and services, please get in touch with us.

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