2022 was a year of growth and renewed ambition for the brand industry. We jumped into a sea of changes in consumer attitudes – across both B2B and B2C markets – to produce some of the boldest identity work in a long time, but that wasn’t all without a few mishaps along the way.
A myriad of brands reacted to changes in consumer attitudes effectively and were met with lots of appeal from their target markets and beyond; on the other hand, lots of others did so less successfully and were met with criticism and backlash. A brand refresh can quite literally be your make or break – it’s essential to get it right by doing your research and always paying attention to the details.
Here’s our review of some of the best brand refreshes seen in 2022 so you can learn from their successes (or failures…)
The year started with a brand launch that would set the tone for the next 12 months, showing confidence, humanity, personality and awareness of their market trends.
Sproutl aim to supply the best house plants possible and arm people with the knowledge they need to not let them die so quickly. The brand uses achingly modern expressive typography combined with a human voice and a bold colour scheme to disrupt their usually conservative marketplace in a way to appeal to the now-biggest consumer groups of millennials and gen-z. Like the best modern brands, this oozes confidence.
February saw the first big mainstream brand refresh of the year with the long-awaited launch of the NFL’s Washington Commanders.
There’s two reasons to take note of this: if you’re outside of America, you might be unaware that Washington’s NFL team is the 8th most valuable team in all of sports – they’re worth $5.6Bn, (that’s more than Real Madrid!) – any sizeable brand change is worth paying attention to. Secondly, their previous name, ‘The Redskins’, was used all the way up until 2020 despite being regarded as a racial slur by Native Americans since before 1920. It was always going to be difficult to have a worse brand perception than they had currently.
Whilst they certainly got rid of any visual or verbal messaging that remained from the previous name, what they went for was so safe and unremarkable that fans felt it was very, well, uncommanding. Aside from the obvious irony about a team playing in America’s capital called the Commanders and playing in red, everything from the team’s stock-style logo to the addition of stars to the uniforms was met with an apathy that was deafening.
One of the most viable tactics to follow when you have a brand with massive negative market perception is to change the name and from a blank page. However, when you then randomly doodle all over that blank page like Hermes did, you might not achieve the desired outcome.
In the UK, Hermes was the most notorious of delivery companies, with seemingly everyone having a story about how bad the service was.
A name change didn’t come unexpectedly, and the name they chose, Evri, was not the worst. However, one thing to consider when changing a brand’s name is how easy it is for it to be mocked or parodied, and this is something the Internet did with relish. Added to that, a typographic style that could politely be described as ‘brave’ made the launch as problematic as you might expect.
Will it work in changing people’s perception? Most likely. People’s memories are short and jokes about the name are finite. But as with all brands, the most you can do is try to influence your customers’ perception – ultimately, your service will be the deciding factor.
April saw possibly the Brand industry’s favourite refresh of the year. To many nerds of a certain age (a few of ourselves), Jodrell Bank is an icon. It was Britain’s first large scale radio telescope, capable of searching for extraterrestrial life, and its iconic swivel design left a memorable impression.
Industry rock star Michael Johnson leaned into the iconic swivelling when producing this glorious refresh with a logo that was brutally simple and memorable, and a presentation that lends itself massively to motion design and the modern world. It’s a joyous triumph of building around the substance of the service.
Sage is the lifeblood of many businesses as it keeps track of financial expenditure and incomes. It’s a very omnipresent business brand so they were keen on a brand refresh, which they introduced back in May.
When you become a market leader, your approach changes from hunter to staying ahead of the pack. Although visually safe compared to many examples on this list, their approach was nevertheless a solid update on the familiar.
Freetree was our pick for June’s best brand work. Clever, stylish, very modern and fun, this work brought a simple idea to life perfectly.
The fintech market saw a huge amount of seismic identity changes happen last year. There’s been so much change that we could’ve spent this whole article reviewing just that one sector, but Yubi’s brand refresh was definitely the most stand out, transforming branding expectations for the industry into playful yet still professional looking visuals.
Wolff Ollins are one of the superstar agencies of the industry, but like with many similar instances, you wonder how much that reputation is justified, but their branding for Instacart reminded us exactly why they’re so highly respected.
A simple, clever update to the online grocery shopper’s existing identity really made this stand out. It’s engaging and makes you want to look further. Food itself is as much about pleasure as it is sustenance, and that’s accurately captured in this work.
When you have a brand with a strongly established identity, renewal can be a tricky task. You don’t want to move too far away from what made your brand enticing in the first place, but at the same time you may recognise that change is needed. It’s a difficult balancing act, and that is why this refresh for Tabasco certainly deserves praise.
Often, change can be found by just developing the existing further. This work does a fantastic job of taking little touch points that people recognise – the label and the colours of the sauce range – and placing them front-and-centre while presenting them back in a new configuration, capturing attention and drawing life back into a staple of many people’s condiment shelf.
October is often when online retailers start noticing their annual spike in traffic as people start to prepare for Christmas and Black Friday. It’s usually a prime time for retailers to launch their new campaigns or reintroduce themselves to their audience.
Not On The High Street’s refresh was puzzling. It was clear the brand presentation needed updating and their ‘hard-to-find-usually’ brand purpose needed doubling-down on, but everything else felt wide of the mark.
A big no-no of modern brand building is putting the unique part of your logo in the middle of the wordmark. Not On The High Street’s refresh is a prime example of why. The little string ball icon could’ve possibly worked as a logo in its own right, but they chose to position it as an ‘o’. This often means that when it’s shown in isolation (like in their LinkedIn profile picture) it disconnects from its meaning because the brand name starts with ‘N’, not an ‘o’, which is what the ball stands for. It’s so important to build around the first letter, or at least keep the logo and wordmark completely separate.
Again, it was clear that a more vibrant and modern colour palette could benefit engagement with key audiences, but the chosen one is curious, seeking more ‘neon granny’ than anything else.
It’s not obvious how strongly their audience has embraced this new appearance, so it will be interesting to see how it works out as we progress into 2023.
Often, brand and identity design can really help with acquisition-based business models.
Dropbox had been acquiring a lot of tech and support services over the years, initially keeping them independent through what’s known as a pluralistic brand architecture – a way of brand building that shows no visible public connection between the parent and child brands.
The time had come to move this into a monolithic brand architecture and use the parent brand for authority to increase its market acceptance. A series of naming conventions and sub-brand iconography were developed to get this family looking linked.
The output was simple but a nice expansion on Dropbox’s established visuals. Having your services all clearly connected can help with acceptance in a B2B market, and this is a prime example of how to make sure that doesn’t come across as boring.
Creeping into our last spot of the year is British news broadcaster, ITN.
The brand has been around for nearly 70 years now, and this modern update that embraces motion design should help keep the brand around for another 70 years.
As digital out-of-home displays replace traditional billboards and video content becomes even more universally shareable on social media, the need to put motion at the heart of your brand has gone from ‘nice to have’ to being an essential. ITN is a great example of doing this in the right way.
What’s on the horizon?
There’s been a notable change in audience attitudes already in 2023, and it’s driving some of the most interesting work the industry has seen in a long time. To help you get a leg up in 2023, our latest article, 4 brand building trends for 2023, provides insights into what you can expect to change in the brand industry and how these trends might be relevant to your business.