Decoding 2023’s most loved and hated rebrands

Not all makeovers are an upgrade.

As we bid adieu to the whirlwind of 2023, it’s time to unravel the most talked-about brand reinventions that made waves this year – from the bold strides of Elon Musk’s Twitter transformation to the glamorous resurgence of the iconic Barbie. These stories are not just headlines. They’re treasure troves of insights. You could say they serve as a glimpse of what paths to (and what NOT to) take for brands gearing up for the rollercoaster ride of 2024.

Elon Musk’s Twitter odyssey

Enter Elon Musk, who decided to give Twitter a facelift that had the digital world buzzing (with negativity, it seems), and left users divided and bewildered. Musk’s leadership collided with the vibrant and opinionated Twitterverse, creating a ripple effect that not everyone was ready for.

Source: Forbes

The mysterious arrival of ‘X’ came across as a cosmic reset button pressed on everything that defined Twitter. Musk’s rapid-fire approach overlooked the sentiments of the existing community, leaving long-time users bewildered. And oh, did we mention the replacement of the already iconic Twitter logo?

Gone is everyone’s beloved blue bird, now ousted by a black-and-white “X” logo that is Musk’s brainchild. That move wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Forbes even called Musk’s big rebranding effort “a cautionary lesson for marketers”.

Source: dailydot.com

Musk’s approach, driven by a desire for rapid change, disregarded the sentiments of the existing community. The result? A sense of disconnect and disapproval from long-time users who felt their beloved platform was slipping away.

“As of all well-established brands, there is a following. No one likes unfamiliarity, especially when the fervent users were sent into confusion the moment they woke up to a whole new different interface. It takes time to ease loyal fans into embracing a new routine. And time should be taken to perhaps, seek sentiments from them... share the ownership with the fans and they would, in turn, feel like they own a part of the business decision behind the rebrand. Of course, this wouldn’t be Elon Musk.”

Elon Musk’s little Twitter (mis)adventure teaches us a crucial lesson: it’s one thing to be an industry disruptor, but visionary leaders must balance their audacity with a genuine understanding of the brand’s community and ethos before plunging into a sea of sudden transformative changes.

A comeback for the books

Now, we shift gears to Barbie’s story – a complete 180 from the Twitter drama. Prior to the 2023 hit movie’s premiere, Mattel was facing a challenge: sales of the iconic doll had been dropping over the last few years. To turn this around, Mattel set aside a lavish budget that fuelled a rebrand of sorts, turning it into a shining exemplar of successful marketing.

Source: 2022 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

The Barbie movie wasn’t a case study of a complete overhaul. It wasn’t even reinventing the wheel. Think of it as an upgrade – bolstering what good elements were already there while announcing to the world that you’re ready to dust off old ways. Armed with a hefty $100 million, Barbie pulled at our heartstrings with a dash of nostalgia, a masterstroke that resonated with the audience. The outcome of Mattel’s efforts was a product of smart decisions, timing and an approach that aimed to forge connections that felt sincere enough to resonate.

The fresh, the fun, the familiar

Like it or not, Barbie is a masterclass in the art of embracing change while preserving the essence that captivates its audience. In the movie, Barbie retained her playful pink colour palette, playful design, and timeless theme, offering a perfect blend of familiarity and modern flair. Mattel held on to the core elements your audience loves; don’t discard the magic in pursuit of change.

Early in the summer Mattel introduced a User-Generated Content (UGC) tool: a selfie generator adorned with Barbie’s distinctive design elements, and it went viral as people started using it to generate their own Barbie-like posters. Word of mouth spread. It wasn’t just marketing; it was a collective celebration.

Let your audience participate, create, and share – it’s the secret sauce to going viral and building a community. In using UGC tools, Mattel got their audience to do their talking for them.

A well-timed double feature

As they say, timing is everything, and in this case, it transformed a marketing strategy into a cultural phenomenon. One could say that the timing of Barbie’s resurgence played a pivotal role in its success. The decision to release Barbie and Oppenheimer simultaneously resulted in a delightful “Barbenheimer” meme fest. (And yes, fans even started making merchandise out of it.)

Source: bucktee.com

Source: @marvels.wolverine, Instagram

An empowering message

Girlhood. At its core, Barbie was a celebration of the diversity of women – their triumphs, their pains, their determination to stand tall in the big world. The movie featured dolls that mirrored different shapes, skin colours, and sizes. It was no longer just about dolls; it became a powerful statement about embracing our collective identity, reflecting the beautiful diversity that defines us all.

Barbie’s commitment to celebrating diversity and inclusivity transcends the realm of societal obligation; it emerges as a powerful business strategy. By reflecting the diversity of the real world, Mattel positioned Barbie as a brand that not only understands but also celebrates the multiplicity of its audience. This inclusivity not only broadened Barbie’s appeal but also reinforced its relevance in a world that values representation and authenticity. It’s a paradoxically good outcome, isn’t it? That in deciding to show diversity, Mattel managed to elicit universal emotional resonance.

Rebranding doesn’t mean erasing

In a similar vein, ABrandADay recently gave a makeover to a well-loved but time-worn home brand: DoDo, a proud creation of Thong Siek Global, re-emerged equipped with a loveable new logo and plenty of goodness to go around.

Our team’s rebranding exercise involved a series of brand audits and industry insights on nutritional values and packaging technology. Unlike Twitter’s case, transforming the iconic DoDo Boy logo didn’t mean completely getting rid of it, but tweaking it into a youthful ambassador. DoDo now symbolises more than just fish balls; it champions innovation and responsible food choices. The rebranded message: DoDo – Do Good with Food.

As the curtains fall on 2023, the highs and lows of Twitter and Barbie’s examples leave us with a smorgasbord of insights. The key branding takeaways? Stay authentic, embrace the past, and seamlessly blend it with the present.

To brands stepping into 2024, here’s the secret recipe: authenticity, sincerity, and inclusivity go a long way in keeping you relevant in an increasingly values-driven, interconnected and diverse world. As we raise our glasses to the adventures ahead, let’s toast to the unpredictable yet exciting world of branding. May 2024 be a canvas for your brand’s masterpieces!

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