Branding Blunders

Branding allows audiences to associate with your brand. However, poor branding can hinder your brand equity, causing it to become less popular in your target consumers’ eyes. Unfortunately, there are several ways in which brands can hurt their image. Here are a few duds to avoid when pursuing branding efforts.

Logo and Slogan Blunders
Have you ever looked at a brand name, logo, or slogan and asked yourself, “How did that get approved?” We assure you that you are not alone. Many companies have attempted to create artsy or clever logos and have ended up harming their brand. The paint company, Sherwin Williams created a logo with a paint can pouring paint over the Earth. The slogan “Cover the Earth” was displayed as  red paint. At a deep or artsy level, one may understand that Sherwin Williams was attempting to brand their company as the all-encompassing paint company that can create paint consisting of all of the colors under the sun. However, we don’t all look at logos from an artsy perspective. One look at the image and you may wonder what Sherwin Williams is really up to. Maybe it’s the dark side in our human nature, but the logo looks like a cartoony death threat. Sherwin Williams clearly did not want to pour blood-red paint over the planet, but the logo’s sinister appearance definitely made consumers wonder in the early 1900s.

Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of

Sherwin Williams is by no means the only company to present a poorly thought out logo for their brand. Many companies have made the mistake of assuming that only one pair of eyes needs to view a logo before becoming official. However, for the sake of professionalism, we have chosen to exclude these brands because their logo blunders have more inappropriate undertones. The lesson to be learned is that a logo needs to go through some sort of focus group (formal or informal) before being presented to the public. Individuals have their own views on images based on their past experiences, so there is no way for just a few people to determine if a logo will be a success or not.

Slogans can also cause an issue. In 1997, Coca-Cola decided to use the slogan, “You are what you drink” for their Diet Coke soda. Not the greatest slogan for people who are trying to be slightly more health conscious. Apparently Coca-Cola felt the same way, because the slogan was discontinued immediately. Brand names, logos, and slogans need to be heavily scrutinized to avoid mistakes like these. Fortunately for Sherwin Williams and Coca-Cola, they were not heavily effected and are still successful to this day. However, smaller brands may not be so lucky.

PR Blunders
In 2013, JP Morgan realized how the general public felt about their brand, in an embarrassing way. The bank had attempted to create a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #AskJPM to give customers the opportunity to chat with the Vice Chairman, Jimmy Lee. However, the responses that they received were not what they expected. One Twitter user wrote, “Does the sleaze wash off with a regular shower, or do you have to use something special like babies tears? #AskJPM.” The harsh, yet comical posts kept coming in for hours until JP Morgan Chase ended the campaign at 1:20 a.m. the next morning. However, the damage had already been done. Check the retweets for the responses.

For any who may not know, JP Morgan Chase has been involved in many controversies, up to and including certain recession related topics. Many audiences were not pleased with the issues surrounding the bank, which has caused the brand image of JP Morgan Chase to drop. The bank should have done its research before diving in to this PR disaster on the open hunting ground that is Social Media.

Brand Extension Blunders
In the 1980s, Harley Davidson attempted brand extension with wine coolers and cologne. However, Harley Davidson is known for masculinity and ruggedness. Those two values do not transfer over to wine coolers. Wine coolers may be tasty, but you will never see a member of a biker gang chugging one before his (or her) next turn in a Billiards game. Association is key here. Brands leave specific images and ideas in the minds of consumers. When a brand extends to a new product type, there is a risk that consumers may not respond positively because the product may not fit with the brand.

There are many ways to ruin your brand’s image. Looking at the above examples, these brands could have avoided their branding disasters by consulting others. Allowing others to scrutinize your work helps to find any particular issues that may arise when the content goes live. Approach logo design strategically and thoughtfully, not by the seat of your pants, especially your artsy pants.

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