Inês Tito

Brands are living entities. They are dynamic. And they are constantly changing. 

A brand’s survival is closely related to its ability to adapt to consumers’ desires.

Inês Tito

Brands are living entities. They are dynamic. And they are constantly changing. 

A brand’s survival is closely related to its ability to adapt to consumers’ desires.

However, to move forward, sometimes an abrupt break from the past is necessary. Such a break can revitalize a brand and make it grow. Or, on the contrary, it can have irreversible consequences. That said, how do you know which way to go?

Instagram’s repositioning is an example of how calculated risk resulted in a successful strategy.

Source: Vecteezy

Brand revitalization through rebranding

Rebranding, or repositioning strategy, is a process used to change the elements that define a brand. However, it does not mean that we are creating a new brand. We are just giving it a “makeover”. The goal is to present consumers with a new identity that they can relate to.

The (right) reasons for rebranding

Changing the brand image can be a tempting idea when there is little consumer engagement or when sales are declining. 

However, before moving forward with a repositioning strategy, it’s important to understand why this is happening. Sometimes it is enough to create a new marketing strategy and present the product from a different perspective.

If, on the other hand, the brand image is outdated or does not reflect the company’s mission and values, perhaps rebranding is the solution. But there are other equally valid reasons:

  • New mission, vision, and values

As a brand evolves, its mission, vision, and values may change. So it is important to review the business model and how it is reflected in the image conveyed to consumers.

  • Mergers and acquisitions

In the business world, acquisitions and mergers between companies are commonplace. However, for the consumer, it can be confusing to differentiate the new brand from pre-existing ones. Therefore, it is important to present the new brand identity through a renewed image.

  • Repositioning in the market

Re-branding can arise from the creation of products and services to reach a new target audience. In this case, although the company’s mission, vision, and values remain unchanged, it is necessary to update the brand image.

  • New markets

When the goal is international expansion, it is natural that new consumers have no relationship with the current brand image. So, to promote brand identification, it may be necessary to change the logo or even the name of the company, or the product.

Rebranding Strategies

The success of a repositioning plan depends on a thorough market study. Without knowing our target audience, our competitors, and the perception of the brand among consumers, how can we define the next steps?

In addition, it is necessary to evaluate the brand’s mission, vision, and values. Are they aligned with the message the brand wants to convey?

Once these aspects are clarified, it’s time to make decisions.

Rebranding total

Total repositioning results in a complete change of the brand image, which may include the company’s mission and values. 

In this strategy, it is common to create a new logo. In addition, the brand name, slogan, color scheme, and the font may be changed. The result is an image distinct from the original. 

With this strategy, the brand identity is put to the test. 

In the case of established brands, this approach can do irreparable damage. Loyal consumers may find it difficult to associate the brand with the product, and for investors, this means heavy losses. Ultimately, all that remains is to reverse the whole process and return to the original image.

Rebranding partial

Through partial repositioning small adjustments are made to the brand image. In many cases, it is only necessary to change the logo and keep the original color scheme. In others, the image remains the same. What changes is the voice of the brand

This strategy is used by mature brands that just want to renew their image and retain loyal customers. In this way, the consumer recognizes the brand and its products through an improved image.

Instagram: The success of a risky rebranding 

The first revolution instituted by Instagram was its appearance. 

The second was the 2016 rebranding.

Source: Unsplash

In 2010, the social network Instagram was surprised due to its innovative concept: a platform dedicated to visual content, created from mobile devices. Quickly, anyone anywhere could post and share photos with friends and family.

This simple idea turned into a recipe for success. Six years later, Instagram had 400 million users. By this time, it was clear that the social network had grown enough that it was necessary to review brand communication.

The need for change

Usually, repositioning processes arise to solve a problem. 

In the case of Instagram, the “problem” is the dream scenario for any executive: a brand that has naturally grown beyond its own identity. This kind of growth forces a review of the brand’s image to keep up to date and keep up with its evolution.

The purpose of Instagram users has changed since the appearance of the platform. In 2010, the app was primarily used to share photos with friends. However, in 2016, companies were expanding their business by placing ads on the platform.

During this period, the social network has invested in several services to keep up with users’ needs. Among them are direct messages, videos, ads, or tools for businesses, such as newsletter subscriptions and product purchases.

In addition, Instagram bet on improving the user experience. It developed a simpler and more intuitive interface, focused on creating and publishing content.

In this sense, a logo inspired by a Polaroid camera, which takes us back to the nostalgia of the 80s, will hardly be associated with the latest generation social network.

The transformation of an icon

Instagram’s first logo was developed by Kevin Systrom, the co-founder of the social network. Inspired by the Polaroid camera from the 80s, it is intended to remember childhood and family moments. 

Considering that Instagram’s initial goal was to make it easier to share photos with friends and family, this logo couldn’t be more appropriate. For this reason, in the following years, the small icon was adjusted, to present an updated version of the camera, without forgetting its origins.

Source: 1000logos

So when the new logo was announced in 2016, the reactions were quick to follow. If on the one hand, some loved the new image, on the other were users loyal to the original image. 

Instagram simplified the old camera image through a minimalist design. In addition, the white outline of the camera’s diaphragm contrasts with the rainbow-inspired warm color gradient of the original image. 

The interface has also been updated to black and white tones. For Ian Spalter, the person in charge of Instagram’s rebranding, the icon would serve as a “colorful gateway” to an application where “colors should emerge from the content posted by users.”

This drastic change has generated great debate in the online world. Whether it was good or bad comments, the controversy fueled the popularity of the app. So, despite initial resistance, the change proved to be a success. In 2018, Instagram registered one billion new users worldwide.

The uniqueness of Instagram’s rebranding

Modern society lives at a faster pace than previous generations. As a consequence, we focus our attention on what is perceptible faster. We have no time to waste and want to quickly perceive what our senses detect.

For this reason, the latest trends in graphic design have common elements that aim to make brands easier to recognize. However, when it comes to Instagram’s rebranding, some features are unique.

For this reason, the latest trends in graphic design have common elements that aim to make brands easier to recognize. However, when it comes to Instagram’s rebranding, some features are unique.

  • Simplicity

In short, the sooner the consumer understands what an image is about, the sooner he or she will associate it with the brand. So, in the logic of “less is more”, the new Instagram logo represents in a simplified way the key elements of the brand identity: photo and video sharing.

  • Relevance

For a repositioning strategy to be successful, the logo must be relevant to the target audience. That is, it informs the audience what that image is about. The color gradient and clear layout of the Instagram logo reveal a brand with a friendly personality, where the image, whether in photo or video, is the main element.

  • Memorable

Despite numerous studies conducted on human memory, in many ways it remains a mystery to researchers. However, one thing is certain: our brain simplifies complex information to retain and create memories. 

For a repositioning strategy, this means that an image with little visual detail promotes brand recognition.

This was Instagram’s bet. By presenting a clean and simple logo, the social network leaves its impression on the user’s memory. At the same time, it can communicate the most important aspects of the brand’s personality.

  • Timeless

In a rebranding process, it is important to think long-term, avoiding just following the latest design trends. With this strategy, the brand can define which way to go and leave a door open for the future.

Instagram has achieved the goal of timelessness perfectly. Since its inception, the social network has changed its focus on photography to include video as well. Thus, the new image suggests the versatility of the brand, regardless of which path to take.

In 2022, Instagram continues to reinvent itself. The new algorithm has brought changes to the presentation of content, with a greater focus on video content. As a result, the platform updated the color gradient, created a custom font, and developed a new format to celebrate creativity and self-expression.

What can we learn from Instagram’s rebranding?

Change is the essential element of any rebranding strategy. Change is part of the continuous improvement process that allows brands to evolve. 

Instagram decided to take a risk and change the image that the world was already familiar with. However, it was a calculated risk, supported by thorough research and testing. So what can we learn from this rebranding?

Knowing the brand’s impact on users and thinking about a long-term market strategy is important to present a timeless new image that is well accepted by the public. For a year, the platform researched and analyzed the data collected before applying such a drastic change.

In addition, it is essential to test the new identity with employees and consumers. By surveying test groups, Instagram obtained vital information that led the rebranding team to the final version of the new brand image.

Finally, it is important to accept that it is impossible to please everyone. Change creates anxiety and resistance to what is new. However, it is essential to move forward. This principle underpinned Instagram’s rebranding process, which acknowledged the negative comments and nevertheless did not stop gathering feedback.

Instagram’s rebranding demonstrates the importance of maintaining a brand image tailored to user needs. What started as a shocking change has turned into a success. Considering the platform’s evolving pattern, Instagram may surprise us more and more in the future.