Branding disasters

Branding disasters

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We all love a good branding disaster, except when it happens to us or a brand we love of course! But watching from a distance when it happens to someone else can be very interesting.

This week it was the turn of Leeds United Football Club. A multiple title-winning club with almost 100 years of rich history and many thousands of die hard fans. A club crest takes on an almost religious significance for many, so if you’re going to rebrand it, you’d better be really sure you’ve got it right!

They didn’t. In fact, they got it so wrong, they’ve now scrapped it and are back to the drawing board.

The football club badge is quite unique in terms of logo design; most brands don’t have that level of fanatical support, but it’s a good chance for us all to learn some lessons.


Details have emerged on the process taken, after claiming “10,000 fans were consulted” about a new badge. However, what actually happened was a survey was sent out to 10,000 people asking “what does Leeds United mean to you?” a new badge was never mentioned. Coca-Cola did a similar thing in the 1980s with “New Coke” secretive testing and opaque questions about a new product formula and branding. People responded positively until they found out what it was actually all about. They averaged about 1,500 complaints a day to 1-800-GET-COKE. Within 3 months, the whole project was scrapped and the old brand returned. So, if you’re conducting research on a rebrand or refresh of anything, be clear about your intentions. If you’re not asking the right questions, you’re going to get the wrong answers.

Take it slow

This is an example of a brand throwing its history down the drain and going for something completely new, which doesn’t have a track record of working. Cadbury has gradually evolved its logo since the 1950s; Coca-Cola since 1900 (apart from that 1980s misstep); Apple has only changed colours since 1976. Remember when Gap surprised everyone with a rebrand? Maybe you don’t, it only lasted six days, such was the outcry. The problem was, it threw out its classic branding which somehow so encapsulates the style of the Gap shopper and swapped it for Helvetica with a little blue gradient square. This mistake was estimated to have cost the company $100 million. Ouch.

Think about what you want to achieve

Is Leeds United looking to sell indigestion remedies? Perhaps it wants to set up a sideline selling generic club crests on Shutterstock? Maybe it’s planning to join the MLS? It claims it’s “ready for the next 100 years”, it barely got through 100 hours. Branding should accurately reflect the company and its product; if you’re a 100-year-old British football club, take that into account when rebranding. BP fell foul of this mistake too, its “Helios” rebrand was supposed to reflect its green growth strategy, but it drills oil. So, of course, this attracted a lot of negativity. The company would’ve been better off staying away from the green angle altogether.

It’s not always easy to get a rebrand right, but following a few simple rules and doing some honest research can really help.

Or you could always give us a call on 0161 941 4252.