What’s In A Label? The Pros, Cons Of Changing An Icon

Every holiday season, the iconic soda maker Coca-Cola issues the traditional holiday edition soda cans. This year was no different.

For this holiday season, Coca-Cola decided to create an attention-grabbing campaign by putting regular Coke in winter white cans with polar bears roaming the can. Coca-Cola has stated the design was in conjunction with the World Wildlife Fund to highlight global warming’s threat to polar bears’ Arctic habitat. While the cause is commendable, the color change has left Coca-Cola out in the cold.

Historically, regular Coke has been packaged in the classic red can while Diet Coke has been packaged in the polar opposite silver can. Consumers have been conditioned to visually understand the difference between the red and silver cans without having to read the label. This holiday season, diabetics across the nation are seeing a spike in their blood sugar all because of a little fun with color.

The Coca-Cola faithful have taken to social media to express their displeasure with the holiday cans. The main issue at hand is how strikingly similar the holiday edition regular Coke and Diet Coke cans are. Since the uproar over the can color, Coca-Cola has decided to scrap the white holiday cans and quickly replace them on store shelves with red holiday edition cans as early as this week.

While changing an iconic label is not unheard of, there has to be a substantial reason behind the transformation. Let’s explore a few reasons:

You should change a label if:
> The business is growing – As a business evolves so does the consumers. The business needs to be able to adapt as it progresses to their consumers changing needs and perspectives.
> Product repositioning – Brands often need to realign or redirect company goals. In this case designing a new identity with a logo or color scheme change is an effective way to come across as modern and fresh.
> Your brand is outdated – Ever look at an old picture of a Campbell’s soup can? What if they never update the soup pictures or the layout of the label? They wouldn’t exist. If your label looks outdated, your brand probably is too. Labels need to transform with society.

You shouldn’t change a label if:
> Your brand is having an identity crisis – So your brand hasn’t caught on just yet, that is not a reason to up and change the color scheme or logo. Changing your brand’s identity too often can make the brand seem unstable.  Consumers like consistency.
> You want to create buzz – Changing your brand identity to create buzz, can have serious backlash. In the social media world, how a person expresses their pleasure or displeasure of a brand on social media channels has a trickledown effect.  Consumers’ are highly influenced by their peers and social media gives them a soapbox to stand on.
> Everyone else is doing it – Just because your competition is changing or altering their brand does not mean it is the best decision at the time for your brand. Have your own identity.

Brands evolve and change over time; they have to in order to stay relevant. But it is how the company executes the change that makes it a smooth transition or an epic fail. Could you imagine if one day, McDonald’s went from golden arches to green arches?

Do you have an example of how a brand successfully or unsuccessfully changed their logo? Share with us in the comments section below.

About Marta Weissenborn

Marta has led teams to successful outcomes through social media, traditional media and analyst relations for a wide range of B2B and B2C clients. Native to the Bay Area, Marta is downright fanatical when it comes to the San Francisco Giants and 49ers. Although born and raised here in California, Marta holds the title of “proudest Swede” in the M/P office. When not moving the needle on client programs, you can find her at the local dog park with her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Sophie. Find her on Twitter: @PRMDubya.

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