Brand Messages vs. Social Media Input

April 11, 2017 • Posted in Branding

Fresh off the latest cultural bomb that was the Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad, I was reminded of other recent branding efforts that were met with outrage. In the age of social media, where everyone has a direct line to companies, consumers are directly influencing the products that are delivered to them. But should companies be so reactionary in the immediate aftermath of poor public opinion?

Pepsi has a bad recent history of branding blunders, excluding this recent ad. Remember the public shaming they received with their own rebranding just under ten years ago? Everyone hated the “smile” and mocked Pepsi for trying something new. However, Pepsi took the hits and stuck with the rebrand. Until they dared to rebrand Tropicana just a couple years later; yikes. The vitriol they received for changing the logo and packaging was as swift as it was surprising. Who knew people felt so connected to those cartons? Pepsi responded by reverting back to the previous packaging, but then over time slowly incorporated some of the old with the new. Now we are left with a half measure that feels crowd sourced rather than a confident brand look. But hey, they managed to bring back Crystal Pepsi without much fanfare. Face plant.

In the sporting world, “both” football sports launched new logos that were met with criticism. The now LA Chargers were already in the doghouse for moving the franchise, but when they announced the official move with a new logo on social media, the reaction was again immediate. Everyone wanted in on the action of mocking the LA monogram. The Chargers quickly came up with a story stating the monogram was just for social media and wasn’t meant as a replacement of the lightning bolt logo, and then took the monogram off social. Opinion aside, that monogram was way too polished to solely be used for social media. I have no doubt it would have been a secondary logo to the main one. RIP.

Over in Italy, storied football club, Juventus, launched a new logo and brand that left football purists crying for tradition. In Europe, football logos are typically shields or crests that fans feel as devoted to as their own nations flag. So when Juventus revealed their bold new look (which is one of my favorite rebrands of the year so far), fans flipped out. The new look is clearly designed to expand the brand in an attempt to make it ubiquitous, much like the New York Yankees logo. But unlike the Rams and Pepsi, the decision makers behind this brand are confident in their vision and aren’t giving into public perception.

I can go on about others, but for every brand that gives in, like when Gap revealed their new logo overnight, and changed it back six days later, there is Airbnb and Uber who launched controversial logos and said they know better than the general public. But can brands afford to blow-off public opinion when we live in a world where everyone is demanding to be heard? When is it right for a brand to stay the course, or bend to the will of the people?

True visionaries push boundaries to innovate, and if done properly, the opinion of your client base should be considered from the beginning. The challenge in any branding or rebranding effort is to inform and fill a need. By understanding your client’s needs, you’re far more likely to create a solution that goes viral in a good way versus being the next punch line on SNL.

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