Recently Hershey decided to change its corporate branding. No doubt this involved a fair amount of work by a fair amount of fairly talented people. A rebranding effort is complicated. And hard. And, as the folks at Hershey found out, more than a little bit risky.
Apparently the marketing team's error was not showing the new corporate logo to enough young people. Because if they had, it's a safe bet that members of the texting generation would have pointed out that the Hershey Kiss image at the end of the logo looks remarkably like the poo emoji.
When Hershey unveiled that logo, the social-media world erupted in a mix of disbelief and comedy. But if it's any consolation to the marketing team at Hershey, there are many people in the food industry who felt their pain.
The number of rebranding efforts gone bad in the industry is quite high. And those failures are often of the high-profile sort that attract disdain and infuriate consumers. Often the only way out is for the company to sound a full retreat.
Here's a look at four famous rebranding flubs that were eventually reversed.
There's probably not a marketer, or even just a soda drinker, who doesn't know this story. Coca-Cola, for reasons that were mysterious then and remain unfathomable even today, decided to change everything about its biggest product.
In April 1985, the company announced it would stop producing Coke, a soft drink beloved by millions of people, and instead start making something called "New Coke." The world went nuts in a sort pre-social-media way, with consumers holding protests and harassing Coke employees. Within less than three months, Coca-Cola caved in and brought back the original under the name Coca-Cola Classic.
Remarkably, Coca-Cola made a similar mistake again this year when it changed the formulation of Vitaminwater. And once again the company was forced to reverse course.
Coca-Cola's primary rival, PepsiCo, made a similar blunder in 2009 when it redesigned the packaging and logos for Tropicana orange juice. The new look was fine as far as it went, but it was missing the single most recognizable symbol of the brand -- the picture of an orange with a straw in it.
Consumers complained. Sales fell 20%. And PepsiCo relented and brought back the old branding.
Vegemite has always been a tough sell outside of Australia. Perhaps that's because it's not quite clear what the stuff is. The traditional branding is a small jar that says Vegemite is "Concentrated Yeast Extract." And only food scientists and Australians know what that is.
So in 2009, Kraft decided to rebrand the food, creating a new cheesy version and asking for suggestions for names. The new crowdsourced moniker turned out to be ... iSnack 2.0.
Sure, it seems quite comical now, but someone must have decided that everything Internet-like was cool and likely to sell, and maybe someone thought that Apple fanboys would like Vegemite if you gave it an iPhone-style name. Who knows?
All that's clear is that the existing buyers of Vegemite hated the new name. And Kraft soon backed down.
In 2010, Frito-Lay rebranded Sun Chips by placing them in a new, high-tech package that was said to be 100% compostable. The idea was that environmentally conscious consumers would be pleased by something with "sun" in its name that they could add to the compost heap.
The problem was that the new bag was loud. Wildly loud. Something about the technology in it caused the bag to make a tremendous noise when it was torn open. Folks complained .. loudly.
And Sun Chips soon returned to a bag that was not as good for the planet, but easier on the ears.