The 5 Worst Rebrands Ever and Lessons You Can Learn From Them

In case you missed it, Elon Musk has drastically rebranded Twitter, replacing the existing bird logo with his signature ‘X’. The move is the latest development in his controversial acquisition of the social media platform. So far, the takeover has attracted widespread criticism, caused share value to drop significantly and damaged the reputation of Musk and his multiple businesses in one fell swoop. This high-profile example serves as a reminder of the significance of a logo for a successful visual identity and business reputation.

Businesses may undergo a makeover to signify a shift in direction, as a result of an acquisition, or to dispel negative sentiments that may have arisen. A new visual identity is sometimes a refreshing, even necessary, change but it always carries the risk of alienating audiences, not resonating with brand values, and reducing brand recognition. Musk’s rebrand of Twitter so far seems to have achieved all of these things.

In this article, we’ll explore five of the worst redesign blunders and their key takeaways, highlighting the importance of thoughtful and strategic decisions when it comes to visual identity.

Main Takeaways

  1. Avoid drastic rebrands
  2. Change with purpose
  3. Keep changes to a minimum
  4. Change one thing at a time
  5. Be timeless rather than follow trends

Twitter’s ‘X’ Logo:

Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter has dominated the news recently for more reasons than one. But his controversial approach to rebranding – that is, totally wiping clean the successful, thoughtful Twitter visual identity – has raised many eyebrows. Let’s explore how revamping your logo can damage your brand reputation if not dealt with carefully.

What went wrong?

By replacing the well-loved blue bird with his signature, monochromatic ‘X’, Musk has caused such a sensation over the brand’s visual identity that it is no longer taken seriously by its audience. The value of Twitter has dropped to a third of what it was at the time of Musk’s acquisition due to reputational damage. And Meta’s rival platform, Threads, is gleefully waiting in the wings to steal the Twitter crown.

What can you learn?

When rebranding, subtle is always better than an unrecognisable transformation, so that you can maintain your existing customer base. Any new brand starting out should prioritise carving out its own niche and making a statement with its visual identity. That includes logo, colour scheme, brand name and tone of voice. Once you’ve done a stellar job creating a signature, as demonstrated by Twitter, the last thing you want to do is waste all that hard work with an overnight re-design – and a questionable one at that. In this case, Musk has received free publicity from the world’s press which has given Twitter a short-term boost of infamy. However, for a smaller brand, an unrecognisably different logo could be a one-way ticket to total obscurity.

Image from Creative Bloq
Image from X

Gap’s Logo Fiasco:

Clothing retailer Gap sported the same logo from 1990-2010. The original serif font design was used both on shop fronts and proudly emblazoned across sweaters and hoodies by the brand for two decades. This made the motif a true signature and helped Gap achieve an impressively high level of recognition for a non-luxury brand. In 2010, Gap attempted a modernised logo redesign, leading to widespread backlash from customers and designers alike. Gap changed its well-loved logo for purely visual reasons, rather than to mark a shift in direction. We’ll delve further into why this is not desirable and can work against your business’ recognition.

What went wrong?

In an effort to counteract a decline in sales following the 2008 recession, Gap spent $100 million on redesigning its logo, unveiling it in 2010 just before the busy Christmas period. Gap traded in its trademark typeface for a san-serif, Helvetica replacement in an effort to inject new life into the brand and boost sales, but it’s safe to say the move didn’t have the desired effects. The new logo didn’t last long, with the company returning to its original design a mere six days later, making the change a costly mistake.

What can you learn?

Gap’s logo change calls to mind the saying: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” While more successful rebranding efforts are a result of operational or organisational developments within the company, Gap decided to change its logo based on purely visual preferences. If you think of Gap, one of the most iconic products is its logo sweatshirts. A staple of wardrobes throughout the 90s and 2000s, many customers established an emotional connection to these pieces of clothing and, with that, the logo itself. In changing the motif that reminds people of their favourite old sweaters, Gap alienated its customer base. The lesson? Don’t panic-change your visual identity in an effort to boost sales. The best rebrands are strategic, thoughtful and have a solid rationale behind them.

Image from the BBC

Pepsi’s Logo Indecision:

In its 122-year lifespan, Pepsi has cycled through thirteen different logo designs. While 122 years sounds like a long time, its rival Coca-Cola’s logo has more or less stayed fixed around its trademark typeface since the 1880s and managed to stay relevant with more minor tweaks. Pepsi on the other hand has gone through multiple makeovers, each time with a vastly different font and logo style. It has, at least, stayed loyal to its colours of red, white and blue. We’ll explain why it’s essential to stick to a trademark and the benefit of a longstanding visual identity for your reputation.

What went wrong?

The long-standing rivalry between Coke vs. Pepsi is a familiar one. It’s not often that two products are so similar that they experience the level of competition for market dominance that we see with these two brands. Statistics currently show that 50% of people prefer Coke, while 42% prefer Pepsi, and Coke holds a market share of 43.7% in the US, compared with Pepsi’s 24.1%. This may be down to taste, but a lot of it rests on brand reputation. Coca-Cola is renowned for its traditionalism, and part of that means that it doesn’t often stray from its traditional visual identity. It’s worked with relatively the same logo since the beginning. Pepsi, on the other hand, seeks to appeal to a more innovative, youthful crowd. This could be the reason it continually updates its logo to move with the times. However, rather than staying ‘down with the kids,’ it implies a level of insecurity about Pepsi’s identity and certainly doesn’t help it establish a firm footing against such a giant as Coca-Cola.

What can you learn?

While it’s important to stay culturally relevant, and nobody wants a dated logo, consistency should never be undervalued when it comes to building and maintaining a strong brand reputation and image. Pepsi continually updating its logo to suit the current tastes of the time does not come across as modern or energetic, it comes across as too trend-reliant and leaves its signature lacking. The main takeaway here is to keep logo changes to a minimum if you want to establish a long-term brand legacy à la Coca-Cola.

Image from ZenBusiness

Tropicana’s Packaging Debacle:

A 2009 rebranding attempt by Tropicana resulted in a confusing packaging overhaul that alienated customers and led to a steep decline in brand recognition. A long-time premium brand in its sector, Tropicana underwent a packaging makeover which completely backfired and cost the company $30 million in sales. Packaging is a totally different ball game to advertising, so let’s explore the issue of context and special considerations for packaging vs. other parts of your visual identity.

What went wrong?

Tropicana was well known for its original packaging featuring the orange pierced with a straw and traditional lettering. In 2008, the company traded in its old look for a new and updated design. The redesign moved away from the traditional motif of the orange and placed more focus on the idea of ‘100% orange juice’, focusing on the juice itself, rather than the orange motif. It updated the lettering for a bolder, more modern style, and included a 3D design element which was an orange-shaped plastic lid. While the choices made were thoughtful and in line with the intentions of Tropicana – to reconnect with its existing audience and diversify into new markets – the new packaging actually confused shoppers. Many thought the new packaging appeared cheaper and reminiscent of the packaging of low-end, supermarket-own brand products, rather than that of a premium brand.

What can you learn?

While the initial packaging was dated, it stood out among other brands in the supermarket juice aisle. A key point to note about packaging is that it’s seen at a later point than most advertising efforts. Supermarket shoppers are at the end of their buying journey once they hit the aisles, so any changes in packaging that reduce brand recognition can seriously hurt sales. In this case, Tropicana changed too many factors of its packaging, rendering it unrecognisable to loyal customers. While the rebranding may have been carefully executed, it failed to pay attention to buyer behaviour, which prioritises recognisability in a saturated environment such as the supermarket. In a nutshell, the lesson here is to tread carefully when it comes to changing your packaging and think hard about the context in which your product will be received.

Image from Pinterest

Burberry’s Sans Serif Phase:

The luxury brand Burberry is an interesting case when talking about rebranding – and for a few reasons. The quintessentially British brand has struggled with its image throughout the 21st century. Initially a marker of the upper class throughout the 20th century, by the end of the 1990s, Burberry sought to broaden its horizons. The likes of Liam Gallagher and Kate Moss were seen sporting the brand, but before long fake versions of the nova check were adopted by the new sectors of society, not the upper classes and celebrities Burberry was aiming for. Throughout the 2000s, Burberry became the preferred look of groups with unsavoury images, such as football hooligans, and was branded ‘chav-tastic’ by the British tabloids. So much so that certain pubs banned it. This association ended up working in its favour as by the early 2010s, streetwear took the fashion world by storm and Burberry was reabsorbed by fashion’s elite in an interesting case of ‘post-appropriation’. By 2018, Burberry was looking for a facelift in the form of a new logo. Let’s unpack what went wrong.

What went wrong?

Burberry followed the ‘flat logo’ trend of the late 2010s and dropped its traditional serif font logo and the equestrian illustration that had been used by the brand since 1901. The move was made to keep up with a trend towards streetwear and hype fashion that was prominent during the 2010s. In an effort to shake free from whatever class controversy it was wrapped up in previously, Burberry decided the minimalist logo was more appropriate for its modern audience. It’s true that it lost its aristocratic air and the logo was well-received. Other luxury brands like Balmain, Balenciaga and Saint Laurent all followed suit, unveiling similarly monolithic logos around the same time. The issue was that this trend-driven rebrand en masse gave the luxury industry a feeling of homogeneity, and removed each brand’s singularity. For Burberry, a brand based on heritage and tradition, this wasn’t in line with its history or core values.

What can you learn?

Bolder logos can be favourable for a number of reasons. Namely, they are more readable, recognisable and work well across different cultural demographics. That being said, ultimately, Burberry returned to its equestrian logo in 2023, marking the reclaim of its individuality. Many other brands that fell victim to the flat logo trend have also returned to their retro logos or a version inspired by them. While it’s tempting to stay current and appeal to contemporary audiences, try not to make decisions based on trends. As seen with Burberry, it can overshadow your brand’s values and mean that the market becomes a blur of similarity. Remember: variety is the spice of life – and branding!

Image from Adweek


These five rebranding fails serve as valuable examples of how not to conduct a makeover of your business’s visual identity. Musk’s makeover of Twitter is not alone among these other re-design disasters, highlighting that logos play an especially crucial role in a brand’s image. To avoid having to backtrack on your makeover and waste your design budget, as woefully demonstrated by these cases, businesses should approach logo redesigns thoughtfully and strategically, considering their audience and brand essence to ensure a successful and enduring visual identity.

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Alice is one of Expert Market's resident software experts, helping businesses improve their efficiency or reach, with an emphasis on productivity software, CRM and telecommunications.