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Research is vital to any brand exercise undertaken. Don't believe us? Check out these examples of big name brands who didn't do their research properly and it cost them in reputation, customers and, of course, a hefty amount of money.

We love enthusiasm. There's nothing more rewarding for us than having businesses enthusiastic and energetic about creating/refreshing their brand. It is a thoroughly exciting time, the new opportunities it can present are un-limited and it's very easy to get carried away with wanting to see something visual as soon as possible. However, we stress to every client, from micro start up businesses to large companies, that the research phase is just as important as the designing phase of the process.

It takes time to accurately research and understand your target market, your sector, your competitors' strengths and flaws and your own USP, and these results all need to be analysed and incorporated into the design brief. By skipping this stage, any new design work produced for your brand is based more on personal opinion than hard facts... which will later bite you in the proverbial bottom.

Here's 3 large scale brands who made exactly that mistake...

British Airways

Lesson learnt: Know your target audience

The rebrand: British Airways spent around 60millon pounds rebranding their company to try and reposition it more as an international airline company. It was decided that painting the tailfins with world images would appeal to a more global audience, so they set about altering their entire fleet of planes.

Why it went wrong: BA overlooked a fundamentally important factor; most of their customers were using them because they trusted and believed in the British stamp. Taking the Union Jack off the tail fins left customers confused and insecure, even overseas clients felt safe and secure travelling with a British brand, and as such, were happy to pay a premium price to fly with BA in the knowledge that they knew they were going to be looked after.

The result: Profits dive-bombed, customer numbers dropped and the whole business took a downturn. Competitors (Virgin) were quick to size up the situation and jumped at the opportunity to provide customers with an alternative British brand. They started using the Union Jack on their aircraft and their profits soared as BA's fell. In the end, BA realised their mistake and reverted back to using their Union Jack motif, making the whole rebranding exercise a time-consuming waste of money which damaged public opinion.

British airways tail fins


Tropicana

Lesson learnt: Pitch at the right level for your customers

The rebrand: Tropicana were looking to update and modernise their packaging and came up with a design that had changed every aspect, including the typography, the images used, the logo, the slogan and even the lid. They vastly simplified their packaging and concentrated more on the physical product inside the cartons at the same time as reducing their logo size to help highlight their new slogan.

Why it went wrong: The overwhelming consensus was that customers didn't recognise the brand any more as there were no similar features from the old packaging. The new, simple designs were considered to be visually comparable with the supermarkets own brand, value orange juice, so customers overlooked the cartons in their search for a high-quality drink.

The result: Sales dropped by 20% and Tropicana were forced to revert back to their old packaging having learnt the hard way that customers paying a premium price want to see premium style packaging. It was estimated that Tropicana lost 137 million dollars in sales between January 1st and February 22nd.


GAP

Lesson learnt: Never crowdsource design work

The rebrand: GAP decided they needed to upgrade their look from their famous, bold, much loved logo to something fresh for the new century (why... we're still scratching our heads over that one). The new logo was unveiled on the website without any warning or explanation, and there was an overwhelming surge of outrage via social media and the internet as loyal customers openly cricitised the new design. GAP revealed that they were in the process of crowdsourcing the company's new image and then threw open to doors so that any potential designer could send their concepts in.

Why it went wrong: The new logo was a generic, poor substitution for the original logo, which didn't need any alterations as it was beautifully iconic enough already. Whilst the logic behind the blue box was kind of understandable (they wanted to keep elements of the old logo so people still recognised it and they didn't have the Tropicana reaction outlined above) the finished symbol lacked personality and meaning. It was a souless eye-sore which had a horrible relationship with the new wordmark and could have belonged to any company.

There was also a strong reaction from professionals at GAP crowdsourcing – you wouldn't find other sectors doing work for free and just hoping they'll be picked to get paid. (We already tried asking 10 bakers to bake us a cake and we'll pay the one we all thought was best... it didn't work.) It's disrespectful, will ultimately lower the quality of standards across the board and is something that professional designers abhor.

The result: Within 6 days GAP had admitted defeat and reinstated their original logo... but not before they worked up a hefty 100 million pound price tag, infuriated the professional design industry and marred their reputation.