SEPT2020; Rebranding

5 amazing brand evolution stories – and what you can learn from them

Switch on your TV. Scroll through social media. Jump in your car. Step outside and take a walk. Not a day goes by where you don’t notice a powerful brand. Remaining relevant, they stay at the forefront of our conscience. But how do they do that? Mostly, it comes down to constant evolution – and the courage to change. Because from new logos to differing colour palettes, everything from a brand’s tone of voice to the people they hire can evolve a brand.

At Starbots Creative, we’re fascinated by all things branding. After all, it’s where our agency began – and we’ve loved seeing our clients grow and grow, through the powers of branding. [1] 

So, to celebrate our passion for branding, we wanted to share with you the big brand evolutions that have inspired us. From the subtle to the controversial, we’ll delve into what makes these brand evolutions great – and what you can learn from them.

In this blog post, learn:

  • how stripping back a brand can achieve better versatility
  • the importance of knowing your audience
  • what subtle changes overtime achieve
  • why acknowledging your past is key to your brand story
  • how a launch shapes your brand too

Need help with your branding? Get in touch with our team to get started.

1.  The beauty in simplicity: Toyota

Over the years, we have seen multiple car industry giants update their logos. Despite a few significant changes (Kia for example), on the most part, evolution has been a subtle change in the direction of simplicity.

A common theme is seeing car companies move away from the metallic-like badge emblems and opt for a ‘flat’ version. For some companies, like Nissan, they chose to evolve their logo further. However, for others, like Toyota, they simply wanted to make their logo more accessible across a wider range of media.

Removing embossing, drop shadows and replica effects – while still maintaining the same recognisable silhouette – helps companies radically modernise and become future-proof without compromising or losing their recognisable symbol.

Well, it’s just logo evolution, isn’t it? No, not at all. Indeed, it’s essential not to get your logo and your brand confused. Yes, a logo is a cog in the wheel of your brand, but in this case, the logo represents a bigger change in the brand.

What can we learn from this brand evolution?

A logo evolution can play a small part of a bigger diversification across a whole brand.

Toyota still keeps its metal badge on their cars but the alternative version shows they are looking beyond the car and enriching the brand all over. After all, these companies don’t just do cars – they represent a lot more and their business model is more intricate than that.

2.  Versatility and the audience: TGI Fridays

For anyone who has fancied a bite of American-diner style food recently, you may have noticed that the famous TGI Fridays restaurant chain is now simply ‘Fridays’ on its logo. Naturally, this has caused a fair bit of debate. After all, so many people refer to the restaurant as ‘TGIs’ – so is it a dangerous move?

Is a stripped back version easier to understand?

This seems to be an exercise of seeing how much you can remove from a logo yet still achieve connection with your brand. With a new monochrome logo, the iconic striped red background appears as an optional extra in the graphics. Additionally, the logo keeps the ornate border – but it’s simplified, keeping the top and bottom bumps that resonate with the old brand.

It’s all about the UK audience

Interestingly enough, the ‘TGI’ is sticking around in the USA branches – it’s only in the UK that it’s dropped. So does this signify what a UK audience wants? Are we less tied to the phrase? That’s a question we can’t answer without knowing their audience inside-out – but we think it must contribute to their decision. After all, brand recognition is about the audience – figuring out what they perceive of the brand and what they can live without when it comes to identifying with the brand they love.

A drastic update with a clear nod to originality

There’s a lot of controversial things you can say about this branding move, but on a positive note, we love how TGI Fridays have honed in on what makes them truly recognisable. It’s allowed for a big refresh yet still remained true to the original logo design.

What can we learn from this brand evolution?

To achieve versatility, you needn’t completely strip back every part of your logo – or brand.

Overall, TGI Fridays knew the iconic stripes could hold them back – but they didn’t let that happen! As an important part of their brand identity, they flexibly incorporated them – ensuring that their logo is more versatile. Combine this with clever insight into their UK audience, we hope this really is a successful move for the restaurant chain.

3.  Celebrating the past: Fisher-Price

Instantly you think of play – infants, babies and toddlers – gifts galore! Having gone through several brand evolutions over the years, it’s fascinating to see how this brand has recently developed – and strengthened its significance as a top brand in this market.

Brand evolution: not always about “modernising”

Most recently, Fisher-Price has evolved its logo – updating the typography and badge shape. For many brands, this is born in part from a desire to modernise, but this wasn’t the case here. Instead, Fisher-Price had a desire to confirm and reestablish their past – as a vital part of their brand story.

Revisiting the logo, the four scallops has been reduced to three – as a representation of the three founders.

Furthermore, the brand has dug deeper into why it does what it does – which is all around fun and play. Cue a new typeface that is ‘bouncy’ and incorporates smiling face graphics and other fun elements.

What can we learn from this brand evolution?

You don’t have to step away from your history to evolve. It’s not always about being ‘new’ or ‘modern’.

Many brands indeed worry that rebrands or brand evolutions take them further away from their ‘beginnings’. In this case, Fisher-Price has shown that the process of rebranding can actually remind us of our ‘brand story’ and their purpose. Ensuring to integrate this history into their design fully was achieved by taking their brand apart and putting it back together again – in a new and better way.

4.  Never afraid to change: Pepsi

We only have to say the word Pepsi, and we know you’re imaging their iconic colours and logo. A superbrand, Pepsi is a brand that’s constantly evolving and investing in making sure their brand still represents what they are trying to achieve, their new markets – and new opportunities.

Brand evolution so subtle your audience doesn’t notice it

One of the key features of the superbrands is the subtle changes they make over time. Yes, if you look at how the brand has changed from today to it’s beginnings 122 years ago you’ll see a big change. But if you look closer at the 12 key evolutions in between that, you’ll see how subtle it has been – it’s almost unrecognisable from one stage to the next.

So why the constant tweaks?

We know that continually tweaking your brand (or even just your logo) can seem exhausting. How do you ensure consistency while always adapting?

Quite simply, Pepsi is not afraid to evolve – because it knows it has to. Each of the 12 redesigns is a reflection of the decade it was designed – such as ornate fonts in its early days, moving to 3D design and then the simple flat form it takes today. It moves with what evokes their audience at that time.

What can we learn from this brand evolution?

As a brand, you must reimagine yourself as much as your audience does.

This superbrand shows us precisely that. Moving trends, changing styles and innovations are all part of Pepsi’s audience’s life – so it makes perfect sense that Pepsi aligns itself with this. Overall, we love how Pepsi never stays the same. Because as soon as you think your brand should remain strong as it is, you’re already losing sight of new markets, new opportunities – and growth.

5.  An exciting logo launch: Microsoft Edge

It’s a tough gig for Microsoft Edge, or Internet Explorer as we previously knew it. Competing with Google for its audience, Microsoft Edge has had to redefine its audience and therefore redefine its differentiation point.

It’s all about technology

With this brand evolution, Microsoft wanted to make a move to look more technological. Their goal was to ascertain their place at the forefront of tech innovation, and with the launch of ‘Edge’ this would be the newest platform to reflect that. That’s why the logo was so important.

The logo reveal as part of the brand evolution

So, this is where it gets interesting! The launch involved hiding the logo behind a series of online puzzles and clues posted by Microsoft employees. An element of techy superiority that the tech-loving public could tap into. A kind of mini fan base was born for those who love finding ‘easter eggs’ on the internet.

Designed for web-first

Remember when we talked about car industry logo evolutions above? Well, this is the opposite. The new Edge logo is designed explicitly for web-use first. The logo brings in elements of 3D animations and shows the fluid concept of the design, reflecting the fluidity of technology and the new flexibility of the browser platform.

What can we learn from this brand evolution?

Brand evolutions don’t stop in the design room. They’re everything that you do after too – like the launch!

The way Microsoft launched the new logo reflects everything we believe about representing your business values – and your purpose. In this case, Microsoft was going to talk about new products and technologies – so their logo had to be a reflection of that. Not just in the design, but at every point – including the all-important launch.

The best brands always evolve

It’s true. You might not even notice it – which can be a good thing – but they’re always tweaking to adapt to their ever-changing audience. At the end of the day, us humans don’t stay the same. So why would a brand?

We hope this blog post has given you food for thought! There’s a lot you can learn and apply to your own branding…

Let’s talk about evolving your brand

(In a way that’s right for you!). It might not be a big change or always about “modernising”. It could be as simple as a few well-thought-out tweaks that take you closer to your purpose – and closer to the right high-quality clients.

Whatever the case, evolving your brand can make a huge difference to your business’ success – and we love helping our clients achieve this.

Can we help you evolve your brand? Get in touch to learn about how our branding services can help you.


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