Rebranding Facepalms & How to Avoid Them

Posted: October 2, 2017 by Angela Corbett

Ah, rebranding. The professional equivalent to the summer before seventh grade.

While some of us cross the bridge between childhood and teendom rather smoothly, the rest of us usually try to radically change our image. And most of the time, it fails spectacularly.

With the news that Viacom is rebranding its famous testosterone-fest known as Spike TV to Paramount Network, it felt like now was as good a time as any to talk rebranding.

Now, unlike reinventing yourself in the brutal face of hormones and the social hierarchy gauntlet that is adolescence, rebranding usually doesn’t have as high of a fail rate. But of course, there’s still a huge potential to tank.

So how do you avoid a disaster?

1. Make sure you’re, well, actually on trend – You know when your parents start saying something that stopped being cool about a month ago? And like, you can appreciate it, because hey, they’re trying, but jeeze, does it have to be so embarrassing? Yeah. You don’t want your brand being the one trying to get “jiggy with it” in 2017.  Ask Capital One, which rebranded with a look that was outdated by the time it was unveiled. Or you know, just take a look at anything Pepsi has ever done. Bless their hearts. There is a thing as “trying too hard.”

Honestly, this seems to be the biggest issue with rebranding in general. A lot like bomb scares in the world of covert marketing, executives just can’t keep up with the kids these days. Time to start listening to the interns, I guess?

2. Manners Maketh Brand – Do you know what that means? No? Then let BP give you a lesson.

Snappy movie quotes aside, this is one of those “no amount of good marketing can actually fix a bad situation” things.

And even though BP’s disastrous “Helios” logo predated the Deepwater Horizon oil spill by a decade, that still didn’t prevent everyone and their mother from calling it the “BP oil spill.” And really, let’s be honest, how eco friendly is drilling for oil anyways? The public saw right through the rebranding attempt, and some rather vicious recreations of the new “eco friendly” logo started circulating shortly after the spill.

Less disastrous, but still worth mentioning is the whole Comcast to Xfinity thing. They really thought rebranding to Xfinity would make people forget about terrible customer service, which would be fine, except, Xfinity still had some really awful customer service. You’ve just given customers two names to associate bad experiences with.

3. Lean In – Rebranding doesn’t always have to completely overhaul what your brand stands for. Old Spice might be the most famous case of this. Up until recently, Old Spice was an “old man brand.”

To which Old Spice boldly responded: “But we are a man.”

See, Old Spice figured out that women were actually making men’s body wash purchases. By that, of course, we mean that women were buying body wash for themselves, and then the men in their lives were just using that, because vanilla cupcakes smell great and smelling great is gender neutral.

But that wasn’t really great for Old Spice. So they encouraged women to make their men smell like men with some traditional man body wash. By presenting ladies with the dapper and charming Isaiah Mustafa. “No ladies,” the ad bitterly reminded us, “I am not your man, but if you started buying Old Spice, that man could at least smell like me.”


Of course, avoiding the pitfalls of rebranding is not as easy as it seems. Every brand has their own unique hurdles to overcome, from market shifts to internal overhauls. Whatever the reasons, every season is comeback season for Jeffrey Scott; we love a good makeover, and we’re only a call, an email, a smokey Scott signal away.

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