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Idealog® is a monthly take on the hottest topics in branding, business and culture. Eidos® is a monthly deep-dive into persistent brand challenges and solutions.

20190419_transformdeform_web

Transform—Don’t Deform—Your Brand

Those horrified at the United Kingdom’s destruction of a nation-brand that stood for respectability, stolid reliability and intelligence for hundreds of years, because of the Brexit debacle, would do well to reflect how easy it is to accidentally throw away brand value while attempting to change. It’s all too easy to deform a brand rather than transform it.

Take the example of HR and payroll giant ADP, which appears to have unnecessarily bent itself into a pretzel to come up with a reverse acronym for its name, arriving at the head-scratcher “Always Designing for People” when it has nothing to do with the design business.

Fashion icon Burberry, fresh from attracting public outrage over burning unsold clothes, has ditched the dashing warrior horse from its logo and the instantly-recognizable checks from its signature pattern lining, prompting some to suggest they can burn the new brand if it doesn’t work.

Sometimes, the challenge with rebranding is that it didn’t encapsulate change enough, as in the case of Mailchimp, which has moved beyond simple email marketing, but you wouldn’t know it from their confusingly quirky rebrand.

Rebranding might have been good for the Library of Congress, which does indeed contain a great deal more than books. But in attempting to appeal to a population increasingly disinclined to read anything longer than a tweet, did it really make sense to make the word “library” harder to read?

Sometimes, there was no reason to fix it, as in the case of workplace chat company Slack’s perfectly opposite hashtag logo, now replaced with something unkind commentators are comparing to “a swastika made of dicks.” Ouch.

Others, however, have made successfully bold moves to demonstrate their business has transformed, such as Dunkin’ Donuts, which has wisely dropped the “Donut” in favor of emphasizing its reputation for providing surprisingly good coffee on the go. The jury’s still out on American Express’s rebrand, but at least it captures the idea that this titan of the credit card universe is useful for both work and play.

And, love it or hate it, Zara’s new logo reflects a new visual branding reality where everything has to squeeze onto a tiny smartphone screen… for now. But that’s the trouble -- sometimes reshaping a brand only ends up deforming, instead of transforming it into something iconic. How are you going to ensure that your next rebranding will be transforming vs. deforming? Ideon will help you raise a Mother of Dragons vs. a White Walker brand you’ll have to battle for years.

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