A Wave of Rebranding

We're in a recession and companies nationwide are slashing their marketing budgets. The layoffs are astronomical, the ad buys are pitiful and job boards are barren. Why then, would at least four major brands, off the top of my head, choose now to embark on massive rebranding efforts (and how are they affording it)?

1. Pepsi: I've already ranted about the new Pepsi logo (twice), so I'll leave them alone for now, except to say, why? Why now - and why like this?

2. Tropicana: The news broke today that Tropicana will recall their tragic new package design, and return to their former packaging featuring the iconic image of an orange with a straw in it doused in dewdrops. The old packaging made a strong and memorable statement about freshness, while the new effort oversimplified, leaving consumers with the feeling that they were buying a generic brand, or worse yet, medicine. Here's the punch line. After all that, they're going to continue to run the ad campaign that launched the new package design. Doesn't it just make you go "huh?"

3. Kraft: I have to preface by saying the new Kraft logo will serve as a corporate logo and will not be featured on the packaging. Regardless, separating the internal and external brand identities still seems like a terrible idea - especially in this economy. What does it say to investors? To me it says that they don't believe in their existing brand, so they redesigned their corporate logo in a lame attempt come across as happy, colorful and optimistic in this tough economy. I, for one, am not buying it. Also, it's way too busy and really should tie in with the other logo better.

4. Gatorade: The relatively new Gatorade campaign and packaging features an attractive redesign, but as much as I want to like it, the message is just too cryptic for my taste. Good branding shouldn't be overly obvious and simple, but it also shouldn't leave the target audience scratching their heads. It ought to send a strong, subtle message that comes across immediately, at first glance. The new package design requires people to read the entire label, front and back, (which involves rotating the bottle several different angles) in order for it to make any sense. Check it out.

These are just four examples, but newly renovated brands (especially PepsiCo brands) are popping up left and right. So why all the rebranding? I've been thinking about this for a long time and the only solid thing I can come up with is that private-label market share is growing, which means a lot of these brands are suddenly facing new competition: the off-brands. They have to fight to stay relevant in an economy where suddenly even the most standard brand-name products have become a luxury.

I also remember reading somewhere (text book maybe?) that brands that continue to advertise and market themselves in down economies are proven to come out stronger in the end (which makes sense). So maybe these brands are taking it one step further, thinking this is their big chance to make a bold move and come out on top. That logic doesn't work for me because it doesn't factor in customer loyalty. I think the most recession-proof brands will turn out to be the ones that have a loyal following - the brands consumers can depend upon. A full-on rebranding that changes the entire face of the brand might betray, in a way, the sense of trust companies should strive to build with their consumers.

This is a topic I'm a little perplexed about, so if anyone has an explanation (or even a hunch) as to why these companies are choosing to rebrand now, I would love to hear it.


Michael said...

I think a lot of people link ostentatious designs with luxury, and these bold art deco type designs with the 50s, which alot of people see as a conservative era. This explanation works for pepsi and gatorade.
Tropicana's logo is classic. The new branding seems sort of overly honest in a pessimistic time. Sticking a straw in an orange is not what is in that carton. Homogeneous pasteurized orange juice is. Remind people that they're just buying orange juice and they'll probably look at all the offbrand orange juice.
I have no idea what kraft is doing.

Katie said...

I still prefer the new branding for Tropicana. I wish they'd given it a little time to let people get used to it, rather than giving way to kneejerk reactions to change. I think the argument that it looks like a generic brand ignores the fact that very few generic brands look that upscale. It looks far more like several natural and/or organic food and home supply products than generic supermarket brands.

Art said...

I hate the new Tropicana look. Just like store brand

Amoi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amoi said...

I did not recognized Tropicana at all at first when I saw it in the deli yesterday. I saw it in the 12oz bottle and I thought it was some new "all-natural-100%pure" juices jumping on the pomegranate band wagon. And the whole pulp free thing? They make it sound like pulp=trans fat when some people may actually prefer it.
As for the carton; the change, I think, was necessary.
And as for Pepsi. I guess Pepsi if for Change. I Actually like it and its release time was pretty genius. Now I wonder what they would have done if Obama didn't win the election.. :)

Renée said...

The new branding was awful. Tropicana substituted their iconic, distinctive packaging in favor of a bland design that looked generic. Glad to hear they are reverting back.

Ben Leis said...

I don't know what happened with Tropicana. Something really went terribly wrong here. After spending a good five minutes studying the new cartons in the grocery store today trying to choose the kind I wanted I ended up buying something called Tropicana 50 that tasted nothing like what I knew Orange Juice to be. It really made me mad. So not only is the new packaging unfamiliar but it is really confusing. I just want my "some pulp"!!!!