The Rise of Logo Redesigns in 2021

Within the last couple of years, there has been a clear surge in large companies and corporations redesigning their logos: Kia, Pfizer, Burger King, General Motor, etc. Why is redesigning logos so popular right now? 

First, I want to begin by talking about different reasons companies may change their logo. Go Branding, an inspiration hub for brand designers and strategists, claims that there are only four reasons why companies may change their logo:

  1. The company changes its name. 

In September 2018, Dunkin’ Donuts, the coffee and doughnut chain, dropped the “Donuts” off the end of their name, leaving the company name and logo “Dunkin’.” Simply for aesthetic purposes, the logo redesign then allowed Dunkin’ to successfully launch sleek, modern packaging with the signature orange and pink colors.

  1. Two companies merge together.

FedEx bought Kinkos in February 2004, which prompted the new company to merge their two logos together to create a new one. I don’t think the merged logo redesign itself was pleasing to look at, so I’m appreciative that the “Kinkos” was later dropped from the redesign altogether years after the merge to make a more aesthetically pleasing, less crowded logo.

  1. The company wants to reposition and renew its brand. 

Coffee-seeking Americans turned to more cost-effective options during the Great Recession,  hurting Starbucks tremendously. To save the brand, Bill Viau, a writer for Market Veep, explains that Starbucks “stripped a diluted, fragmented, or compromised core message back down to its roots (a really, really good cup coffee),” and then did the same with their logo, making it less artisanal and more simplistic. I don’t think this redesign was necessarily effective, as Starbucks is still considered a higher-end coffee chain today, but the idea behind the redesign was successful in theory.

  1. The company wants to revitalize its identity or make it more consistent.

Pfizer is a great example because of its most recent rebrand in the midst of the pandemic. With all the coverage involving the company, they decided to redesign their logo to revitalize their identity as a cutting-edge scientific research company. I applaud Pfizer for taking advantage of the timing of the logo redesign in the midst of the pandemic. This is likely the main reason for the recent surge in logo redesigns, but something more specific is behind the need for revitalization.

I-Hsien Sherwood, the associate creativity editor at Advertising Age, claims that the rise of logo redesigns is largely due to the rising threat of digital commerce and direct-to-consumer brands. Many brands are trying to signal to the world that they are keeping pace, modern, and not going away. In the Digital Age, the task of redesigning logos and rebranding companies is cheaper and easier than ever before, so it is natural to see an uptrend in such activity. With how visual our world has become due to smaller screens, I think changing logos to more fresh and modern designs give people something to notice and talk about. 

Although redesigning logos and rebranding is easier than ever before, that doesn’t mean it will automatically bring the company success, which is why it is so important to have a set strategy when approaching the problem of a logo redesign. In her article, “Tips from a CEO for a Successful Rebrand,” Tracie Kenyon, the CEO of Montana’s Credit Unions, gives step-by-step instructions for how to redesign a logo, after her experience of a logo redesign and rebranding of her own company. Kenyon gives five clear steps: Know your market, decide what you want your brand to represent, get help with the design process, plan the big reveal, and reap the benefits. 

Burger King followed a similar process that Kenyon describes when they unveiled their first rebrand in 20 years in January 2021.  

First, Burger King had to know their market, which has consisted mostly of males between 15-40 years of age until this point. They then decided to include all ages and gender with their new rebranding. Next, they decided what they wanted their brand to represent: The old logo had a shiny, lopsided bun with a swoosh, representing the priority of speed and process, while the new logo represents the company wanting to be known for its taste and food quality. 

Getting help with the design process was a major success, as Burger King enlisted Jones Knowles Ritchie to improve their (most iconic) logo they used before the 1999 rebrand. Jones Knowles Ritchie focused on the big and bold brand essence that Burger King already possesses, with its revamped vintage color scheme. The independent, creative, and design-led agency explained that they aimed “to make the brand feel less synthetic and artificial, and more real, crave-able and tasty.” Their words line up with what Burger King wants their brand to represent, so the job was a clear success on both ends. 

Although it might be too early to see if Burger King has reaped any redesign benefits yet, I am impressed with the way they have chosen to reinvent an old logo to rebrand the entire company. The simplified logo with natural colors and a cleaner look reflects their new, intended brand identity perfectly. Bravo Burger King and Jones Knowles Ritchie for a well-executed logo redesign and rebrand.

The bottom line is that our society engages with cleaner, simpler, and more modern looks. Burger King was failing to keep up with the Digital Age, and they suffered because of it. A lot of businesses this year are realizing that logo redesigns could be the difference between meeting minimum revenue requirements with current logos/branding and making a substantial profit from rebranding. 2020 and 2021 have been turning points for companies and our society, which have ultimately paved the way for the current rise of logo redesign and rebranding.

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