5 cases of success and failure in corporate identity change

As we already know, our corporate identity expresses our value proposition. Therefore, when making changes to it, successes can turn out to be very fruitful and mistakes very expensive. Even if our product or service is unaltered, a misguided change in the corporate identity can cause an abrupt drop in sales. The reason: A shift in perception about our value proposition.

In this article we will review 5 cases of success and failure in corporate identity change. Pay attention! They offer great examples to follow and avoid in future projects.

But first, a clarification: Usually, a change in corporate identity is reflected in the brand’s graphic representation. For this reason, we should remember that while some brands prefer to use logotypes, others use isotypes, imagotypes and even isologotypes. Some even use different variants simultaneously. Nike, for example, has a pure text version (logotype), a pure icon (isotype) and another version that combines text with icon (imagotype). On the other hand, Burger King, for example, has only one variant: An isologotype.

Depending on the occasion, Nike’s graphic representation is (from left to right): Logo, isotype and imagotype.

Burger King, on the other hand, only has an isologotype (the icon and the text cannot be separated).

Having clarified this, let’s begin with the 5 cases:

  1. SUCCESS: DUNKIN’ (2018)

Resounding success from a strategic point of view. With its new corporate identity, the company managed to detach itself from the donuts—a product that healthy trends don’t favor—which allowed it to communicate that its product offer goes much further than that. The simplification in the graphic representation eliminated the image of the coffee, but the drink is still alive in the name, implicitly (you don’t dunk without a hot drink). Finally, the new logotype managed to retain some key visual elements so, despite all the changes, the brand looks as familiar as ever.

2. FAILURE: GAP (2010)

corporate identity Gap

When things go so wrong, it is difficult to understand the idea behind the decision. This is the case with GAP’s corporate identity change, which generated such a negative reaction that the company reversed its decision in just 6 days. The surprising thing is that GAP decided to get rid of its historic logo, changing it for an isologotype that not only had no trace of the previous one (except for the blue) but also was extremely ordinary and even “cheap”, according to the public. It is no surprise since the company later revealed that the design resulted from a crowdsourcing initiative.

corporate identity instagram

A radical change. Many of us were shocked when we first saw it, but time proved Instagram right. In its beginnings, the platform was presented as a digitization of the Polaroid camera experience, with its biggest differential being minimalism and its many retro filters. But this change in the corporate identity expressed the future of the company as an image and video-based social network and gave way to the introduction of an infinity of new modalities such as the stories, live broadcasts, and super bizarre filters. As a plus, it helped the app to gain visibility on the mobile screen.

4. FAILURE?: BP (2000)
corporate identity BP

“Ladies and gentlemen, climate change is a reality and we are partly responsible”, said BP’s CEO 20 years ago. Like many others, this change in corporate identity was about much more than aesthetics. For BP, it was a radical change in its promise: From being called British Petroleum, it changed its name to BP and started using the slogan “Beyond Petroleum”. At the same time, it was clear that the new corporate identity intended to associate the company with a green, environmentally friendly image. One of the problems with this decision is that, regardless of whether the new promise was kept or not, BP made itself a target for public campaign attacks overnight—and much more after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. However, we may see this corporate identity change in a different light if the company delivers on its long-term promise to lead the transition to renewable energy.


Here, the change in the imagotype was joined by a name change. The main problem was that the word “Words” did not accurately reflect the offer. Google started by selling advertising space on its search engine, but today the Google Play Store and YouTube are essential parts of the offer. Therefore, the word “Words” was no longer meaningful and, honestly, it was confusing. But there was more: The company decided to reduce the size of its name and get rid of the colors. This is in line with the fact that Google no longer owns the other companies in the holding (e.g. YouTube). Today, everything is owned by Alphabet.

So, now you know: The corporate identity Expresses our value proposition and as such has a huge influence on the success or failure of the business. Thus, it is better to leave the crowdsourcing for others, and have a solid strategy before making a change in our corporate identity.

If you want to change your corporate identity or logo, contact us!

About the author: Bertrand Massanes | Managing Partner at Little Buddha
• Ex Managing Director at MPG art (Media Planning - HAVAS Media)

• Ex Marketing manager at Danone & Reckitt Benckiser Spain

• Ex Export Manager at Danone Paris & London
October 8th, 2020 | Corporate Identity
Little Buddha Brand Design Agency

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