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Brad Breininger & Marko Zonta

Zync - Journal | The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Discussing the hits and misses of branding.

The good, the bad, and the ugly.

When it comes to branding and rebranding, things can turn out great, or not.

For example, have you seen Burger King’s new brand? Is it a “hit” or a “miss”? What about General Motors, Pfizer, or Kia? What’s the strategy and where are they going with their new brands?

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Recorded on January 22nd, 2021


Brad Breininger: 0:00

Hi, everybody, and welcome to this week’s Everything is Brand. This week, we want to talk about what’s good about branding, what’s bad about branding, and really what’s ugly about branding. So join us for the good, the bad, and the ugly. Alright guys, so whether you’re branding or rebranding, there’s a lot of good and bad and quite frankly, ugly that goes along with what organizations tend to do. What do you guys think? What are some recent examples of good, bad or ugly? Or what do you think are some of the elements that make up a good, bad or ugly rebrand?

Marko Zonta: 0:42

Well, it’s interesting, the ugly part, I guess, is kind of decided over a longer period of time based on how much people like the brand or rebrand. And the good and the bad, I think are the interesting parts in terms of where the brand is going strategically, right. And you know, how they’re actually positioned that. I mean, existing brands go through rebrands new companies are created. So there is always brand new going on. What’s interesting about this topic is that alignment of where the business is going and how they’re trying to position themselves. And is the design, the kind of the visual aspect, and quite frankly, the voice of the brand as well aligned with what they’re actually trying to do. And some of the recent examples are Burger King and their redesign. Then Pfizer redesigned recently, just starting the New Year, versus skia. And GM, kiya is going through a rebrand or just launched the rebrand. And GM has lost. And it’s really interesting to see how some have done a really great job in terms of where the brand is going, how they’re trying to position their story, versus some of the other ones that are not doing such a great job. And they’re really, you kind of have to question, what are they thinking like, where are they going with this? Because it’s not obvious when you look at their brand and what they’re doing and other trying to position that?

Brad Breininger: 2:07

Yeah, I mean, I think one of the key things and one of the ones that stands out from that list is Burger King. And there’s been really incredible positive chatter about Burger King and their rebrand online, both in social and and just from people I’ve been speaking to as well. And I think one of the reasons for that is that it it almost transcends some of those key elements that we talked about all the time, which is strategy, design, image, all of that which are key and important in such an integral part of it. But I think they tapped into that kind of retro spective look and feel that old fashioned feel for the brand. And I think it’s a little bit around reading the room, like there’s a lot of nostalgia going on right now the world is in a very uprooted kind of place. And that little bit of nostalgia has seemed to have hit a chord or something. And, and I think that I’d love to give them props for the incredible strategy and creativity that they’ve put forward which they have. But does it also have to do with being able to read the room? Does it also have to do with being able to tap into what’s going on in the world at the time that you’re doing this? What do you guys think,

Marko Zonta: 3:21

Definitely makes sense to kind of pay attention to what’s going on in the world and all of that. But I think that Burger King is also benefiting from, you know, some of the design that was done years ago. So that was well done, well positioned. So I would almost in their case, say that for the last 20 years or so they were off brand in terms of their work following trends too much and not staying true to who they are. I would almost say it in their case, they’re actually going back to who they are, how their brand was originally positioned and thought off. And I think that that’s where their success is coming from. kind of the opposite of that is GM. They’ve been around for a lot of years, their brand has been around for a lot of years. And their rebrand is a complete change in direction. And it’s also you know, they’re reacting to what’s going on in the world with electric cars and everything else. And to me, it just looks like a panicked reaction to how their brand is positioned and realizing that they’re just not able to basically align with where everything is going. It’s just I think that they’re doing a very poorly I think that they they’re panicking, their brand is panicking. And I think that that’s quite obvious in the redesign.

Christian Rosenthal | ZYNC: 4:39

And going back to Brad’s point, and going back to Burger King. I think they are listening. When I look at the new brand new logo, the even their packaging. It feels warm. It feels familiar. It feels kind of reminds me when I was a kid and went to Burger King with my family. So you feel good about that. I don’t feel the same about GM

Brad Breininger: 5:08

No, I don’t think anyone feels the same about GM

Gabi Gomes: 5:11

Okay, let’s not kid ourselves. The reason that they’re going the nostalgic route is there’s nothing healthy on the menu, right? And we know that everything that’s going forward is all about eating healthy.

Brad Breininger: 5:23

Wait a minute… chicken fries aren’t healthy?

Gabi Gomes: 5:26

No, none of it. What else do they have to lean on other than that old feeling of going for a burger with your parents or whatever the the nostalgic feeling of..

Brad Breininger: 5:38

Remember back to when we all had heart disease and died at 50. That’s the Burger King, you want to remember?

Jeremy Linskill: 5:44

Yeah, I mean, I’m gonna chime in here too. And I go back to Marco’s point in the sense of a Burger King. And the fact that I think they’re also benefiting from a bad version of their brand new looking at where they were to where they are now, like, the old version was just so bad. It’s hard to get it wrong when you rebrand the new one, based on what they had. So I think that that’s a big part of this, too. I mean, I think that’s Burger Kings pretty straightforward in terms of strategy. They’re also not trying to really change their strategy. From a messaging perspective, I don’t think this is really purely a visual rebrand. So I don’t think they’re trying to reinvent the wheel. Whereas GM is clearly committing to electric, whether that is through their new logo, it is through the messaging that’s happening on their website, etc. They are 100%, changing directions, and going down the electrical route. So I think there’s more at play with the GM one than there is with the Burger King from a strategic perspective. And I just think that that’s where they fall off, GM falls off is the strategy behind the electric, just inserting the word electric and everything that they’re writing about? I mean, I don’t think that that’s a successful brand strategy. I think it has to be more. When I look at these brands, too, like Burger King, and GM. It’s not just about the logo. And I think that that’s where a lot of sort of companies kind of fall off when they are rebranding. I mean, if I go and I look at the Burger King website versus the GM website, the way that the brand has been adjusted across the board for Burger King, through the typography, the colors, the patterns, everything, it’s all cohesive, it all plays well with the logo. But when you go and you look at the GM website, I’m just using this as sort of the deliverable because, you know, websites are really the, the key tool in the in the toolbox of brands from a deliverable perspective, the GM website, it’s very generic, it’s blocks of color, pretty straightforward, typographic, there’s not a lot going on there. Other than that, they’ve thrown a new logo up, and maybe change the color slightly. There’s not a lot of system in place, not a lot of places they can take this brand and make it visually interesting. So when you’re getting the voice and strategy wrong from a wording perspective, there’s not a lot to help you course, correct from a visual perspective. So the words stand out even more.

Marko Zonta: 8:10

To that point, and I was saying earlier, whoa, GM is it just feels like this is a panicked reaction to what’s going on. They’re not really committing. And you just brought up the website example, how it’s very generic. If they were truly committed to this on a pot level, wouldn’t you think that everything else would kind of reflect what’s going on in the world, everything from web design to how people are consuming, how people will use cars in the future, how people will purchase cars in the future, all of that, like you would think that they would be rethinking all of that at the same time to align it with your new positioning. So it just feels disjointed. But a part of our job is struggling with as well is that in the marketplace, they have sub brands, right. And those are really what people see the GM brand. I don’t think it’s as visible to people as maybe in the past that was, but I don’t think that it is all that much now.

Brad Breininger: 9:09

And strategically, one of the biggest hurdles that GM has is that they are so closely aligned with gas powered vehicles. I mean, it is just such a pivot for them to take the organization in a different direction. Whereas when you compare what GM is doing now, compared to what Ford has been doing over time, I mean, Ford was probably just as much aligned with gas powered vehicles. But over time, they’ve slowly been evolving the brand and the messaging and the strategy and, and there’s been like a little bit of a drip, drip drip from a branding perspective, where they’ve taken the brand in new directions, whereas GM kind of stuck to their market leader, gas powered vehicle strategy, and now they’re trying to pivot all at once and it feels out of place, it feels misaligned. And I think the elements that you guys are talking about, you know, the visual, the voice, the messaging, the commitment. All of it feels a little inauthentic. Because we haven’t seen any kind of evolved. approach as time has gone on that we’ve seen with Ford. I mean, if I look at Ford, they’re getting big and electric as well. But, you know, over time they’ve been doing, especially around messaging, not so much from an image perspective, but definitely in messaging and positioning in putting their key elements out there into the marketplace, they’ve done that already. They’ve done the pre work, whereas I think GM is just trying to change all at once.

Gabi Gomes: 10:44

Are we saying that when you get to that level of a brand, and GM is a massive brand, Ford’s a massive brand, financial institutions are large brands, that it’s better to go at it with small modifications than a complete ditch and a complete new logo, I’m of the opinion that incremental updates are better, or or fine tunes are better than an overhaul. And Case in point is TD Bank, TD Canada trust is actually the the bank, I don’t know if anybody’s noticed. But they have incrementally made changes. they’ve dropped the Canada trust, if anybody’s noticed. But it was quiet, nobody came out and said, we’re dropping Canada trust out of the name. It was subtle. You saw it across the signage, you see it on the website, it’s not there anymore, they touched up the green, they made it way more vibrant. But that’s still the old letter form that’s on there, of the bank. So again, when I say like incremental changes, they can’t afford as a bank to lose any stability. And I would argue that GM probably lost a little bit of that stability in the brand with this update. And I think that’s dangerous, that’s super dangerous. So if I was in GM shoes, I probably wouldn’t have gone as far as they did with it, I probably would have taken that, that brand and modified it slightly to modernize it, whether it be through color, whether it be through whatever the techniques, shading, whatever it is, but I wouldn’t have done such a dramatic shift unless you were completely changing the company from top to bottom, inside and out. And that would be reflected in their products that would be reflected in their stores that would be reflected across the board. And that’s where it falls apart.

Brad Breininger: 12:37

You know, Gabi, you bring up a word, that word reflected, I think that is the key to everything. At the end of the day, a brand is simply a reflection of who and what your organization is. And when things don’t align properly, it almost is palatable, they can almost sense it from the brand. And I think that it feels a little bit like in Jim’s case that the new brand doesn’t reflect who they still are that they haven’t made, the systemic changes that they need to make in order to reflect that new direction that they want to go in. Whereas when you take a look at Burger King, this new brand actually does reflect them better based on all the things that you were all saying earlier, it reflects that nostalgia reflects that history. It reflects the fact that they’re not health food that they’re treat once in a while, like it feels like it reflects who they are. So that’s a great word. And I think that one of the things organizations have to really ask themselves is not just who I want to be, or where I want to be, but who am I and, and really look at making sure that whatever rebranding or whatever branding that they put in place, reflects who they are. And if they don’t like who they are, then those are systemic changes that they need to make. They shouldn’t rely on messaging that feels inauthentic or visuals that don’t represent them in the best possible way, as a band aid to some of the organizational issues that they need to be dealing with.

Marko Zonta: 14:16

It’s interesting that GM is using their main branch or the corporate branch to change the direction I guess in terms of, you know, potential future of their industry. And you brought up the example with Ford taking a different approach. And Gabi, you brought up the use of the word stable, I think that that’s where their redesign is going in the wrong direction. This does not say stable. What they should have done is allowed their sub brands to kind of carry the message of electric cars in the future, you know, where the cars are going and all that stuff, and really kind of positioned their corporate brand as the background brand that’s very stable that will support all of that. That would be perhaps a much better strategy long term, because they will actually have to navigate the future in terms of new technological developments, everything else that how people will adjust to all of that. And now the entire company will have to constantly be kind of looking out for any changes that are happening, instead of actually having a stable brand that is there to support all of their sub brands and let their sub brands, you know, take on that role.

Jeremy Linskill: 15:34

They’re committed to electricity.

Marko Zonta: 15:36

Yeah, and you know, and it’s interesting, like, for example, Volvo made a huge commitment to electric cars, but their positioning and their brand, they didn’t all of a sudden change their brand, just because they changed their positioning. And they made that commitment. Right. So so it’s quite interesting how companies are approaching that. I mean, it’s a huge change in the industry. But I don’t know that they have to necessarily speak to it in this way. You’re right,

Gabi Gomes: 16:07

I think GM should have started with their sub brands, Chevy being one of them. I cannot tell you how much I hate that gold bowl tie. I think it ruins the vehicles and their electric car, the Chevy Volt is in that line. And it just doesn’t align the car to the brand to the logo, it just doesn’t scream future electric, whatever, honestly, that that gold bow ties gotta go. But anyways. One if we’re looking at car manufacturers, one that has done it, and I think done it, well, was Toyota, Toyota added on their hybrid vehicles, that blue, right, what I’m saying is that the brand can take on slight modifications to symbolize the direction that they’re going within the company. You don’t need to throw the baby with the bathwater, so to speak, and ditch the entire brand. And you know, maybe do start, it’s got to be reflections, you start at that sub brand level for GM, you ramp that up, because that’s the car you’re driving. That’s where that electric vehicle is not within the the parent company.

Brad Breininger: 17:13

Yeah, part of the issue, I think that GM has compared to, for example, Tesla, is that, you know, GM has a long history and a long complicated way of branding. I mean, there’s the main GM brand, and then there’s all the sub brands, and they all have different personalities, and they geared it towards different segments of the population. And that worked for them really well. What is kind of working against them right now is that they have done that and that historical way of branding, while it has served them well. It is allowed an upstart like Tesla to kind of come in and say, You know what, we’re just going to do things completely differently. And we’re going to look at the whole industry in a different way. And so GM is playing a little bit of catch up. But to all of your points, I mean, Volvo, Toyota and Ford have been able to do it. And they’ve adopted this kind of incremental approach, which seems to be working for them in a lot better way. So I think that all of those things are definitely opportunities that GM should have paid a little bit closer attention to.

Marko Zonta: 18:15

And it’s interesting, because I mean, there are other car manufacturers that’s updated their brands like BMW is going through a not a rebrand but like a refinement of the brand. Right? So so there is that the whole thing about do you need to change your brand completely? Or do you need to refine certain elements. And sometimes even that goes too far, like Kia, for example, there are a new logo, there is no connection to the old logo like it is. So it was so redesigned. You can even read it anymore. Like you have no idea what the letters are. So it can go wrong just on the design level itself. But I think that’s strategically I think that’s a much bigger point. They are not true to themselves.

Unknown: 18:56

It won’t work.

Gabi Gomes: 18:57

I will say that, I think you got to give it time. I think sometimes when you rebrand and you do such a drastic change like that. You need to give it time like time for people to get used to it time for I remember when Mazda changed their logo, I hated the new Mazda logo, but it was a matter of time of getting used to it. But then I remember gap, the gap changing their logo and everybody going up in arms because they love the old logo. And inevitably they had to backpedal and go back. But I think we also you need to stick to it. You need to make it consistent across the board on everything. And you need to give it time

Brad Breininger: 19:34

That really talks to the good and the bad. Sometimes it’s just ugly though. Two words for ugly: “New Coke”.

Vincent Champenois: 19:42

Yeah, Gabby, you said something interesting. Before Yeah. And you compare brands to institution sunblinds become institution they become industry standards. And and sometimes the way they treat their own brands and it looks like they forgot about it. They forgot about the fact that they became bigger than a brand They became an institution standard, and, and they forget their own history. And they don’t create consistency. And they don’t put their own brand within their own history is what I’m trying to say. And it’s very frustrating as a customer was really frustrating looking at one of these institutions, and seeing it changed so dramatically, within such a short period of time when it’s been around for seven years. And it has communicated on values, you don’t recognize anymore, that sort of things. And, and you can treat the brand as an institution, but you can’t really treat an institution or the prime venue, without hurting it somehow, if you do it one thing. You’ve talked about brands within the lawindustry or the food industry, but the CIA has rebranded its website, and they have done it in a brand way, not an institutional way. It’s an institution, it’s a government agency. And yet they have redesigned it as if it was just a brand that was just, you know, created like last year. And it’s so completely disconnected from it. From what it is, it’s it’s almost embarrassing. The school I attended when I learned graphic design was a royal school, it was created 250 years ago, it had rebranded three times over the course of the last 15 years. I mean, it’s unbelievable how much it can hurt an institution or a large prime to do that sort of thing. And what I really question is most of the time, the strategy behind it or not the strategy, but why do people do it in the first place, you would see that that school, for instance, gets a new director, and that new director wants to leave a legacy, his legacy, he rebrands, the 250 years old school,

Gabi Gomes: 21:50

I want to, I want to pause you right there. Let us not forget about the blue license plates that are currently in Ontario, you want to talk about leaving a mark on something blue license plates in Ontario. But anyway…

Vincent Champenois: 22:07

To me, it’s To me, it’s very frustrating seeing what’s personal preferences or personal legacies that directors or CEOs want to leave on a company that are essentially bigger than them much more bigger, much more older than they are. And I find it absolutely sad, really, to see that some CEOs and some directors decide to put their own personal agendas before the institution they’re supposed to elevate and represent.

Marko Zonta: 22:38

So that point about some brands actually being so huge that they represent an entire industry. Coca Cola is one of those brands, they’ve been around for a long time, and they keep up to date they rebrand or I should say, maybe adjust their brand, all the time. But you wouldn’t know it, right? Because they make such small adjustments to simply reflect what’s going on. But they know who they are. And they know how your position. I mean to have sub brands and all of that stuff. And maybe sometimes they make mistakes in those areas. But with the actual brand, the parent company, they keep it on point. They know exactly who they are. And as

Brad Breininger: 23:23

an institution, they’ve been burned a couple times. And I think that they’ve always been very good at that and at adjusting as they go. And then when they tried to kind of foray into the main brand and come up with that whole new coke and the Cherry Coke, if you guys all remember that. And people just kind of went No, no, this is we’re not up for this. And I think they listened. And that’s what it comes down to. I think what these organizations need to do is they need to listen, not everyone’s going to get it right every single time. So when they do get it wrong, let it help them moving forward so that it doesn’t take them in a direction that they don’t want to be in. The reality of all of this is that more and more branding needs to be looked at as an actual asset as a business asset when it’s looked at as a trend, or something that they need to do to change the business, when it doesn’t reflect what an organization is trying to be or who they want to be in the marketplace. When they’re using brand to really change their messaging instead of just focusing on the messaging itself. That’s when they run into this trouble. And yes, over time, the public and the customers or the people who use the brand will determine whether something was successful or not. Sometimes that feedback is Swift, like with New Coke or the Gap, but sometimes it takes a little bit longer and people get used to it. If you look at the brands that have really done well over the years, it is the brands who make incremental changes like Coca Cola like Ford, like BMW is doing now, yo know, these are all brands th t recognize their power in th marketplace. And they really gi e up some of that power when th y try to do too much at once, wh ch is, I think why we reacted to GM, the way we have is that th y kind of just did a complete 18 pivot instead of really ge ting the audience ready for wh t was about to come. And I th nk that that’s the part that re lly is the ugly part to all of this, every brand is going to ru into good and bad, there’s go ng to be pros and cons to br nding or rebranding, there’s go ng to be good reasons to do it or bad reasons to do it, th re’s going to be good success fr m it, and there’s going to be ba feedback, potentially. But wh re it gets ugly is when the st ategy is not there. Or when th design goes in a direction th t takes them in a place that th y shouldn’t be going. Or when th feedback is not listened to, or they’re not listening to th ir clients or they’re not li tening to their audiences. Th t’s when the ugly happens. An , and we don’t wish that on an brands. So really, I think th key here for everyone who’s co sidering a rebrand or st rting out and branding is th nk about who you want to be wh t you want to be in the ma ketplace and what is the best wa to reflect that. And if you ar a long established brand, if yo are an institution, ask yo rself, what exactly are the ad antages of this institution? An what is it that we have to ge across because good and bad is fine, but you never want to be ugly. That’s this week’s ed tion of Everything is Brand ne . Join us next week for a wh le new topic and we’ll see yo that everything is brand.

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