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The Biggest Rebranding Flops

Sugar or Syrup?


The Corn Refiners Association made headlines this week when it petitioned the FDA to change the name of high fructose corn syrup to “corn sugar.” The rebranding is an attempt to erase some of the stigma associated with HFCS, which has been dropped in recent years by retailers like Starbucks and Kraft over health concerns. (While recent research has explored links to obesity and diabetes, it’s not clear that corn syrup is substantially worse than sugar.)

But while Big Corn seems wise to repaint their product as a “natural ingredient,” it’s far from certain that the consuming public will actually buy it.  Not every rebranding ends in success. Here are six organizations who tried to change their fortunes with a little marketing magic … and failed miserably.

Photo Credit: flydime

BP Goes “Beyond Petroleum”


BP tried to paint itself green at the turn of the century with a new slogan (“Beyond Petroleum”) and a new, green logo that evoked nature and flowers. But many environmental groups decried what they viewed as “greenwashing,” while others pointed out that the company hadn’t really gone too far beyond petroleum. The death blow came earlier this year, when the Gulf oil spill left their shiny new logo in tatters and rendered their green image a painful irony. At this point they should probably just rename themselves Bayou Petroleum, since they are going to be associated with the Gulf Coast spill for a very long time.

(MainStreet explored BP and other “eco-friendly fakes” a few months ago.)

Photo Credit: futureatlas.com

Sci-Fi Morphs Into “SyFy”


See-fee? Siffy? The Sci-Fi Channel’s name change in 2009 left many viewers scratching their heads, and some science fiction fans felt that the channel was spurning their core audience by seeking to broaden their horizons. Still, the derision earned by the new logo was blunted by the ratings successes of new shows like Warehouse 13 and Stargate Universe.

Photo Credit: Loren Javier

Liberals Turn “Progressive”


The effort by those on the left to rebrand themselves as “progressive” rather than “liberal” seemed wise at first. “Liberal” had become a four-letter word often wielded as an epithet by the right, whereas “progressive” carried connotations of moving forward and, well, progress. But recent polling revealed widespread confusion about the meaning of the term, leading the New York Times to suggest that the left re-embrace the L-word.

Photo Credit: marcn

The Dreaded “Buffaslug”


Rebranding a sports team is a tricky business: you want to keep your brand fresh without alienating the longtime fans. The Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League learned this lesson the hard way. The team had already ditched their longtime logo – a charging buffalo over two crossed swords – in favor of a demonic-looking beast in 1996. But their second logo change in 2006 was the last straw for their fans, who thought the stylized animal resembled a banana slug more than a bison. Acknowledging the fans’ complaints, the team will return to an updated version of the original logo for the upcoming season.

Photo Credit: Kristin Williams

Comcast Introduces “Xfinity”


Comcast was perhaps seeking to distance itself from widespread complaints about its customer service when they introduced Xfinity earlier this year. Despite the futuristic-sounding name, it was more or less the same old Comcast Triple Play service under a shiny new moniker. Comcast rival Verizon was quick to pounce, calling out the service provider for their new paint job.

Photo Credit: Oran Viriyincy

KFC Drops the “Fried”


More a case of brand confusion than outright rebranding, Kentucky Fried Chicken has been in branding limbo since shortening its name to “KFC” in 1991. Seeking to get back to its roots, the company reintroduced the original name in 2005, though it still uses the KFC name for most of its branding. Meanwhile, efforts to expand beyond the fried chicken that made it famous angered many franchisees, who want the company to stop pushing grilled chicken and get back to the original recipe. Now the chain is once again looking backwards, starting a new PR push on behalf of their founder, Colonel Sanders.

Photo Credit: aprilandrandy

The Best Brands?


Now that you’ve seen some branding misfires, take a look at some companies who are getting it right. Our recent story, The Best Brands in the World, notes that while some companies faltered in the economic slowdown, some reached new heights.

Photo Credit: The Pug Father

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