Let me admit this right upfront. I am a Coca-Cola fan.
So maybe I’m a tad biased when it comes to rating soda logos on the stinky scale of 1-10.
Having said that, I think the information below backs up my contention that Pepsi’s logo refresh in 2009 was bad.
Bad for design and bad for business.
It may not be the stinkiest logo redesign of all time, but it’s about an 8 on the stinky scale.
Before we get into the details, check out this graphic from Famous Logos that shows the evolution of the logo over its first 103 years.
Not bad. They start out looking a lot like Coca-Cola (and sharing the color red) until the 1960s when Pepsi gets serious about creating a unique brand image. This is about the same time they started advertising to the “new generation” with the slogan “Pepsi for those who think young.”
The logo really hit its stride in 1971-1987. It’s a nice design, balanced and easily recognizable. Nothing like its main competitor. The fact that it lasts twenty years with the tiniest of tweaks speaks well for the design.
But in 2009, things started to go wrong.
The company updated its logo to this:
Not a huge change, right? At least to the icon.
Let’s leave aside the design for a minute and focus on the branding crap that was used to sell the new logo to Pepsi management. Not that it appears it took a lot of selling.
It was document titled “Breathtaking Design Strategy” and is filled with statements like: “Emotive forces shape the gestalt of the brand identity” and “The investment in our DNA leads to breakthrough innovation and allows us to move out of the traditional linear system and into the future.”
This is the kind of stuff you get from a branding agency to justify months of work on such a tiny change.
It cost Pepsi $1 million.
And that doesn’t count the $100 million to roll out world-wide.
So how did that new logo work out for them?
In 2011, Pepsi fell from the #2 best selling soda to #3. They sold 45 million fewer cases than the year before.
Pepsi has fallen from 10.3% market share in 2008 to 8.9% in 2013*—a massive fall. In fairness Coke has also dropped, but from 17.3% to 17%, better than the overall fall of the soft drink market.
When it comes to what the brand stands for, Pepsi has lost its way. And the new logo isn’t helping.
Now back to the design…
In short, it stinks.
It’s been called a rip-off of President Obama’s campaign logo (it’s not hard to see why some people think that way).
And, it has spawned a few parody designs like this one:
There are some real design problems with the logo.
Start with the type. They gave up the bold, all-caps font for an all lower-case, skinny font. It went from substantial to weak. And oddly, the new logotype’s E features the curved line of the old icon (not the new). What’s that all about?
Some suggest that lower-case lettering is friendlier. But in this case, with the quirky round letters P and E, it just feels puny. And slow. There’s no movement or feeling of anything… it just sits there. Especially when it’s paired with the big icon, which will always look like a belly peeking out of a too-small shirt thanks to the parody above.
The problem with the change to the icon is there is no real reason for it. It doesn’t look better. It’s not more modern. It’s just different.
Is it a smile? A wave?
If Pepsi was trying to update their logo, they went to far. And if the goal was to modernize the look of their brand, they simply didn’t go far enough.
When it comes down to it, the new Pepsi logo stinks.
* From Beverage Digest March 30, 2009 and March 25, 2013.