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Crappy rebrands that betrayed their brand heritage

Rebranding can signal a new direction for a brand – or create fury in loyal customers. 

Airbnb – a rebrand mis-step

When the new Airbnb logo was revealed, the entire internet was outraged. Personally, I was devastated! Was that a paper clip, or a tear marking the downfall of a beautiful brand?

Neither! Apparently, it was a newly invented symbol to be known henceforth as – Belo. I smelt brand agency BS and called it how it was – betrayal.

Why, Airbnb? Why?

Those of us deeply connected to Airbnb were stunned.

What did this rebrand mean, and why did it have to change at all? Weren’t we already doing a great job (I was a host)? The original logo looked like a squishy air mattress – reflecting the legendary creation story of Airbnb. The new logo looked like something dreamt up by an overpriced agency trying to justify their job titles.

How the agency explained the evolution of the Belo

How the internet mocked it

[The PG-rated version…]

My Airbnb story

I should have run a mile from Airbnb after my first experience – but I stuck around and was a host in 2016 when the rebrand was revealed (hosting is not the promised fast-track to easy money, I can assure you). 

Around 2008, I stayed one night in an apartment in LA. Upon arrival, I spent half an hour hunting for a key that wasn’t there. Luckily, the host came home and let me in. He apologised but a situation had come up – he now had a flatmate and I’d need to sleep in his bedroom. He assured me he’d sleep on the couch (but first spent an hour perched on the end of his bed chatting). He then requested use of his ensuite at 8am the next morning and explained that his mate and girlfriend would also be dropping in to shower there too. Was I getting sucked into some kind of sex slave trafficking ring? I didn’t stick around to find out. The next morning, I escaped to my conference and went back to a friend’s house.

My next Airbnb experience in the north of England went more smoothly, despite the strange knocking sounds in the middle of the night, and the weird zip ties securing a lot of the doors…

Today, I’ve come to love the clean and pink-ish Airbnb branding, and the various ways it’s executed in marketing campaigns. But I only rent whole houses and don’t risk staying with Airbnb owners!

Luxury fashion rebrands gone wrong

To know me, is to know my wardrobe. I’ve been fashion-obsessed since birth, and I love(d) the glamour of high-end fashion and the stories of the designers who started as nobodies and fought their way to the top.   

High-end fashion used to be about exclusivity, premium materials, and bespoke designs. While the industry still has that glossy veneer, big-name labels underwent rebrands that positioned them as accessible and attainable. The changes were sparked by a combination of factors: the arrival of new designers, demands of a younger, more digital audience, and introduction of mass production (high-end makes its money on smaller, cheaper things likes bags, accessories, t-shirts and perfumes).

The result? A whole lot of logos using sans serif fonts that wipe away history, individuality, and flair.

Brands like Balenciaga, Celine, Yves San Laurent, Diane Von Furstenberg, Berluti, Balmain and Burberry can now all be mistaken for one another. Some, like Yves Saint Laurent, even changed their names (it’s now just Saint Laurent). Apparently, the new logos work better as ‘empty containers’ that can hold the medium on a variety of platforms and products. Yawn.

Marketing experts will tell you it works. The fashion industry suggests homogeneity is the death of a fashion brand. Me? I get a thrill when I find a vintage designer piece with the original label on it, like my Balenciaga blazer and Yves San Laurent Heels. I can’t muster the same level of excitement for a brand that looks like something I made in Canva in under 5 minutes.

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