Biggest Branding Flops

In a constantly changing and connected world, many companies have shifted their focus to include an emphasis on brand reputation and awareness. Brands big and small often adjust their messaging to stay relevant and included in the ongoing market conversation. Sometimes this involves a complete rebrand with new name and logo, other times it is simply a new tagline or tweak to their existing brand image. Unfortunately, not all of these efforts succeed and we call these “branding flops”.

Here are a few examples of brands and rebranding efforts that didn’t quite hit the mark….

Coca-Cola – “New Coke”

Possibly the most notorious branding mistake in history, in 1985 Coca-Cola changed their legendary secret recipe to have a sweeter taste in an effort to convert Pepsi fans to Coke. Turned out that “New Coke” was actually too sweet for many customers and ultimately drove people away from the brand—there was even a protest group started to bring back the old recipe. Needless to say, Coke learned from their mistake and has since switched back to its original flavor and has not made an attempt to change the recipe since.

Comcast – Xfinity

As Comcast shifted their focus to the promotion of faster internet and better cable packages, they also made the decision to change their name to Xfinity. This rebrand made Time Magazine’s list of 10 worst corporate name changes, as they felt it was simply an attempt to create a name that wasn’t connected with its past reputation for overcharging and poor customer service. Comcast however, felt the name sounded “cooler’ and would appeal to younger audiences. In the long run, most consumers didn’t buy into the new brand promise and Xfinity has since attempted to fix their customer service rating through a new guarantee and social media communications services.

Gap – Baby Gap and Gap Maternity

During the 1990s, Gap made a branding “miss” when they overlooked their core customer demographic and made the decision to put their name on clothes for babies and expecting mothers. A popular and almost “cultish” teen brand for decades, Gap expanded their brand without realizing that teens probably wouldn’t want to wear the same styles as their new baby brother or (worse yet) their mom. Sales tanked by over 25 percent in the years following the expansion. Today, Gap still retains Baby Gap and Gap Maternity, but has now has attempted to win back customers and new audiences through a focus on the uniqueness of their individual store styles. Ultimately though, their once dominant teen following has moved on and no longer makes up their core brand consumer.

U2 – Albums For Everyone

In 2014, U2 re-launched its brand through a partnership with Apple. When, Songs of Innocence launched, the band worked with Apple to automatically download the album to all active Apple devices without users’ permission. The thinking was that the element of surprise and access to free music would broaden their fan base. The plan backfired when the 500 million users demanded a way to remove the album, especially younger customers who, in fact, had never heard of the Irish band. The misstep cost Apple upwards of $100 million.


Ok, so brands make mistakes. But for as many brands that have flopped in their attempt to rebrand and appeal to bigger or new audiences, there are just as many a successes. One of our favorite recent examples of a successful rebrand was a 2010 ad campaign launched by Old Spice. When Isaiah Mustafa, the handsome actor who appeared in a series of Old Spice ads, told the women of the world to “look at their man, now back at me,” we listened and laughed. Almost overnight, the 70 year old fledgling brand became a viral sensation with millions of online views and a campaign that later expanded to include 186 related videos where Mustafa responded to celebrities, bloggers, and more.

So what’s the moral? Even the big brands sometimes get it wrong. But that doesn’t mean you should be scared of making a brand change. Sometimes it’s needed and it’s the right thing to keep your brand fresh and relevant. A rebrand doesn’t have to be scary. Knowing your audience, doing your homework and crafting a well-thought out plan are all good first steps to a successful branding campaign.

Don’t want go it alone? Give us a shout.