In September, Arby's announced a new campaign designed to convince customers that the restaurant is a fresh sandwich shop instead of a fast food chain. The rebranding, which includes an updated logo and new menu offerings, targets customers loyal to restaurants like Subway that are known for fresh ingredients and a more healthy menu selection. The campaign, featuring a commercial with well-known private investigator Bo Dietl, points out that Arby's slices its meat in the store.
History shows that large-scale rebranding efforts come with mixed results. Some, like Old Spice that featured advertisements with former NFL football player Isaiah Mustafa, went from boring to a viral sensation, but not all rebranding efforts are worth the high cost. Here are some of the largest rebranding flops in American history.
When Coca-Cola changed the formula for its famous Coke brand in 1985, the public reacted as if the company had ruined a symbol of America. It took less than three months for Coca-Cola to pull the new formula from shelves and return to the original formula which they rebranded as "Coke Classic." What happened? Some marketing experts believe that Coca-Cola failed to ask the simplest and most important question: "Do we need to reengineer our formula?"
All things clear were the craze in 1992 and 1993 when it came to marketing. Miller introduced a clear beer and Coors came out with Zima, a clear malt beverage. Amoco thought a clear line of gasoline would entice customers to pay a premium for gas and even Pepsi introduced Crystal Pepsi, a clear cola that died nearly as fast as New Coke. What happened? "It would have been nice if I'd made sure the product tasted good," said David Novak, who was credited with marketing Crystal Pepsi. Apparently the color in these products is there for a reason.
Radio Shack was once the place to go for all things electronic. For those old enough to remember, a trip to Radio Shack meant browsing through everything from radio-controlled airplanes to something called a diode. Unfortunately, Radio Shack has fallen on rough times which prompted a rebranding effort to make the store cooler to younger shoppers. "The Shack" stripped the retail chain of its well-known brand name causing confusion among consumers. Business Insider called the effort, "totally ridiculous."
Xfinity joins companies such as Altria and World Wrestling Entertainment on the list of Time's 10 worst corporate name changes. Xfinity was Comcast's attempt to market its Internet video service under a name that hadn't become known for overcharging and bad customer service. What does Xfinity mean? Does it have something to do with infinity or is it just an attempt at a modern, made-up name like Spotify or Twitter (Brand names that actually worked)? Business Insider found the silver lining in this rebranding flop. It pointed out that when you're placed on hold, at least it will sound cooler to say you're on hold with Xfinity.
This branding flop may be another lesson in the wrong marketing firm trying to rebrand for a younger generation. What was once the Sci-Fi network became "Syfy" in 2009. Company executives offered two reasons for the change. First, "sci-fi" couldn't be trademarked. Second, they wanted a more tweetable brand name. People were asking what "see-fee" meant.
The Bottom Line
Rebranding sometimes falls flat despite the best efforts of the biggest and most expensive marketing firms. Maybe the company failed to identify the needs of its customers or, in the case of Coca-Cola, attempted to fix a problem that didn't exist. Some of these companies rebranded their rebranding and found success while others, like Syfy, have stood by their choices.