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Top 5 most exciting rebrands of the 21st century

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A rebrand is an excuse for a company to shed its skin and reinvent itself in the eyes of the general public. It can be subtle or it can be transformative. They can also be a risky business. Think the recent rebranding of delivery firm Hermes as Evri. Everybody saw through the ruse – change the name of a notoriously awful brand to fool people into thinking it was a new company – and the result was pretty catastrophic.

But there are plenty more real-world examples of companies that took the leap and reaped the rewards. If you’re debating whether you should rebrand, feel free to use the following case studies as inspiration. Whether your goal is to maintain a healthy, dynamic brand, reinvent your business after a crisis or simply upgrade your public face, these famous examples should give you more than enough to chew over.

Facebook

When Facebook rebranded its holding company as “Meta” a couple of years ago, it made headline news across the world. Rebrands rarely cause such an earthquake but Facebook is a brand that has become some a fundamental part of so many of our lives. The rebrand aimed to throw all its eggs into the metaverse basket, a move that many have said has backfired spectacularly in recent months.

Visually, it retained the white and blue colour scheme but reframed everything behind the now omnipresent wonky infinity sign (which looks like a pair of sad eyes in a certain light). Ideologically, however, it seemed to suggest a sea change in how the company was going to operate. It might not have been a rousing success, but it was certainly pretty exciting!

Mastercard

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For decades, everyone saw the red and yellow, interlocked circles of Mastercard as a pretty solid piece of iconography. So when they hired Pentagram to modernise the branding, it caused quite a ruckus amidst the financial communities. The recognizable red and yellow circles were retained and the logo, largely unchanged since the company’s founding in 1966, received a subtle refresh to usher the brand into the digital age where the rest of the banking world was already living.

The rebrand was another vote for trendy flat designs, with Pentagram partner Michael Bierut explaining, “We took their DNA and went through this process of distillation. With each wave of simplification, it felt sharper, cleaner, and more flexible.”

Instagram

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The little brother of Facebook in social media stakes, Instagram unveiled a new logo and brand positioning in 2016 that replaced the Polaroid camera style of the initial branding. When it first dropped, some loved it, some loathed it, and most of us thought a new app had appeared on our phones. The fact that everyone was talking about it and had an opinion? That’s what the world’s most important rebrands do.

So why did they do it? Six years after the photo-sharing app’s launch, it boasted more than 400 million users posting photos each month and 80 million photos every day. As Wired pointed out, “Those numbers boggle the imagination, and underscore how essential content is to Instagram’s continued growth.”

McDonald’s

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For years, McDonald’s was seen as a brand that was all about brash colours and even brasher flavours. The packaging underlined this with lots of pictures, loud text and lots going on in general. It was assumed that McDonald’s is a brand that would never go the way of aesthetic minimalism but in 2016, everything started getting a lot simpler thanks to a rebrand by Boxer.

Not only has this rebrand transcended language barriers for a global audience but it has also successfully infused McDonald’s unique sense of playfulness into every item. From ocean waves on Fish Filets to illustrated cheese slices melting down the sides of Big Macs, this simple rebrand proved to be fun for everyone. The logo though? Well, I can’t see that changing anytime this century.

Guinness

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How do you rebrand a brand that’s over 200 years old? London-based firm Design Bridge found out in 2016 using two clear methods: a logo update and a wildly popular social media campaign. Bucking the flat design trend, they gave the Guinness logo more detail and dimension. They also started applying the techniques they learned from making iconic television commercials to their social-first ads, bringing the entire brand into the modern age in a holistic way. 

After their rebrand, Guinness saw a revenue ROI of £19.90 per £1 spent with the total profit from the campaign nearly doubling the category norm. Not only did the rebrand bring the company into modern times, but it also caught the attention of a new target demographic on social media, which paid off in spades. 

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