Brand Strategy NHS Rebrand

We ask marketers: Which brands are too good to rebrand?


By Oscar Quine, Editorial freelancer

May 6, 2024 | 13 min read

Everyone loves a rebrand – or do they? Leading marketers tell us which brands they think should never change. Because if it ain’t broke…

A Tunnock's Caramel Wafer bar against a white background

Some brands are perfect just the way they are / Brett Jordan via Unsplash

Lucozade recently underwent its first major rebrand in a very long time, with the threat of flop always looming (just look at Abrdn and the Royal Mail).

Still, some old favorites can certainly do with the refresh. But others have a timeless feel that, fans feel, just shouldn’t be messed with. We asked members of The Drum Network to tell us which brands they hope will forever stay just the way they are. Now, pass me the Opal Fruits and we can kick off.

Francois Boshoff, creative director, Media Bounty: Lego

“Brand loyalty: anyone remotely connected to marketing spends a significant amount of their lives trying to encourage it, nurture it, and (God forbid) bring it back to life when it’s on its way out. Brand love is a different animal: a deep emotional connection that’s so strong, so personal, it could only be called love. Which brings me to Lego, perhaps the most beloved toy of the 20th century. Amid a bit of a rebranding frenzy, Lego has thankfully sailed along quite nicely. Many of these rebrands frustrate me, but the thought of waking up to a completely new Lego logo would hurt on a very personal, very human level. So, to Lego, if somebody’s banging on about how they can repackage you as more ‘dynamic’, ‘energizing’, ‘vibrant’ or… ‘youthful’. Don’t. We like you just the way you are.”

Alice Thompson, creative strategy lead, The Fifth: Chanel

“As a child, I was personally offended that Opal Fruits rebranded to Starburst. How dare they change something that had been steadfast in my life? These days, I’m reserving any outrage for a select few brands. Top of my list: Chanel. I’d be astounded if it ever did change its logo, given that it hasn’t since 1925, but I’ve been thinking about why I’d be personally wounded and why I might be emotionally attached to two interlocking Cs. I wear Chanel perfume because my auntie wears Chanel perfume; I inherited it from her and, as a result, it feels like a family heirloom. For me, it’s a taste of luxury from a largely unaffordable brand, but I still feel part of the generations of women before me who’ve worn it, despite decades of changing fashion.”

Amy Gilfeather, strategist, Designwerk: The NHS

“It’ll be a dark day when a misguided, self-appointed changemaker sees fit to rebrand the NHS. It's reassuringly sturdy; a big blue beacon that speaks to the solidarity of the system. As the service itself is pressured to a point of fracture, the brand remains emblematic of a long history of care: not soft and squishy care, but universal, comfortingly functional care; the official brand of ‘here-for-you-no-matter-what’. It wasn’t long ago we were clapping the service from our front doors, and the brand popped up proudly on windows, shopfronts, and badges: a symbol to the world that we were here for one another, too. The brand has the power to represent that history, and set the tone for the future.”

Nadine Smith, paid social strategist, Rawnet: TFL

“A brand that many of us see every day but often don’t even notice is Transport for London. The iconic bar and circle icon (which even has its own name, The Roundel) was first introduced in 1908 and has witnessed two world wars and the evolution of a city. Unlike the majority of brands, it has remained largely unchanged throughout its lifetime. Instantly recognizable to everyone from daily commuters to first-time visitors, it stands as a proud emblem of British culture. To alter it would be to do more than just change a logo – it would erase a significant piece of history and a vital part of our collective identity. In a world quick to chase the latest trend, maintaining the classic look of the London Underground is a tribute to the enduring power of thoughtful design. This steadfast symbol anchors us to our past but also guides millions through the complexities of modern London.”

Liam Edwards, senior designer, AgencyUK: Tunnock’s Caramel Wafers

“In the cozy corners of my grandparents’ kitchen cupboard, amid treats that tempted young fingers, there was always one constant: a box of Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer bars. That iconic red and gold packaging stood out like a beacon of comfort, promising moments of pure delight. I’d often sneak into the cupboard, drawn by the promise of that familiar box. It wasn’t just about the taste; it was about the warmth of shared moments, the stories exchanged over a cup of tea and a caramel wafer. The packaging, unchanged over the years, is timeless. Its beauty lies in its authenticity, devoid of photoshopped product cameos or exaggerated (and disingenuous) benefit claims. It's a testament to tradition and the enduring appeal of life’s small pleasures. In a world of rabid consumerism, an old treasure staying true to its morals is worth celebrating.”

Claire Elsworth, strategy director, Impression: Marmite

“Marmite is the perfect brand. Yes, it landed on an outstanding aural hook 30 years ago which is still recognizable today. Yes, the 30-year-old campaign idea is based on an unmistakable truth that has become its brand identity. But the real reason it’s perfect is because the brand identity is so on point that it allows for activation way beyond funny ads. It gives a space for such delightful divisiveness that no other brand can get away with. Some people hated their Christmas lights sponsorship. “It’s got nothing to do with Christmas!” they cried. Other people loved it, for exactly that reason. That’s just one example in a rich history of brilliant brand marketing activations over the years. Marmite absolutely does not need messing with, ever (unless by ‘messing with’, you mean putting it on toast with a bit of crunchy peanut butter on top).”

Dan Roberts, creative director, The Romans: Cadbury, Marmite, HP Sauce

“In a rapidly changing world, the allure of a refresh is understandable. But some brands are cultural cornerstones. Cadbury. Marmite. HP Sauce. These are the ones embedded in our identity. Messing with these icons is like tampering with a cherished family recipe passed down through generations. Staying true to a brand's roots holds value. Instead of chasing trends, brands should embrace what has made them beloved for so long. Sometimes, the best path forward is to look back.”

Paul Taylor, chief executive officer, BrandOpus: Most legacy brands, except Bass

“If you’d have asked me a couple of weeks ago, I would have said Tate & Lyle’s Golden Syrup. Too late! I would tend to advise any heritage brand with long-standing, meaningful, and distinctive visual symbolism not to rebrand. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t refresh. The challenge for brands with historic identities is to remain visually connected in an increasingly fragmented world. Still, I would relish the challenge of reinvigorating a brand like beer brand Bass. To refresh and bring relevance to the world’s first ever trademarked logo feels like a task befitting the once great stature of a brand that has moved into obscurity over time.”

Ian Flynn, executive creative director, RocketMill: Virgin Atlantic

“My father was a flight engineer, so I spent a lot of time on Virgin Atlantic flights as a nipper, making it the first brand I fell in love with. Its red and purple colorways, risky tone of voice, attention to brand experience, and inclusive outlook (for the 90s) was the decor of my family holidays, and was an irresistible two fingers up from Sir Richard to the stale, corporate inertia that existed in the category. Since then, it’s had some cosmetic tidy-ups and new brand ideas to anchor to, but the essence of what Virgin Atlantic stands for is very much alive and kicking. Long may it continue.”

Alistair Robertson, creative partner, Nucco: General Electric

“B2B isn’t necessarily where people first look to find heritage brands. But one immediately jumps to mind: General Electric (GE). Take a look at its logo; it’s a work of art, one that I suspect would never get signed off in the current environment of design refinement to the point of banality. GE has recently been broken up into three separate companies. So it’s not impossible to envisage a slow creep away from the original brand. But having worked on the business, I would be disappointed (though not surprised) to soon read a design article about how each organization’s ’dynamic new sense of purpose’ needed a fresh branding approach… Which has the charm of a car park.”

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Wes Morton, chief executive and founder, Creativ Strategies: Coca-Cola, or Dr Pepper

“It appears every brand has embraced modernism. Minimalist design, serif fonts, black and white. Brands that have done it right have either simplified while maintaining their original identity (Dunkin') or reinvented using a bolder, novel aesthetic that differentiates them while embracing futurism (KIA). Too many others have modernized to a sea of sameness, modeled after the Spartan, lifeless tech logos. I'd hate to see Dr. Pepper or Coke lose the iconic cursive that makes their brands indelible.”

Anca Rhone, group strategy director, The Mx Group: John Deere

“The B2B world has been a bit hit-or-miss when it comes to brands. Brand stewardship sometimes means building brands, but other times it means protecting the brand and its long-time equities. One brand I've long admired for its consistent branding is John Deere. Its iconic green-and-yellow 'jumping deer' logo, dating to 1873, is an enduring symbol of American ingenuity and craftsmanship, instantly recognizable across generations. While the logo has slightly evolved through the years, its core visual equities remained unchanged; 'John Deere green,' like the country song says. For someone like me who grew up abroad, few brands capture the essence of Americana quite like John Deere.”

Graham Sykes, executive creative director, Landor: none

“In today’s dynamic landscape, is any brand truly an untouchable monolith? There's always room for improvement in search of heightened relevance and differentiation. Brands should wholeheartedly embrace the zeitgeist, engage with their community, and adapt to shifting perspectives. The most important thing to consider is: ‘Why the change?’ and: ‘What should change?’. Care must be taken, but if we are emphatic about what is sacred versus what is versatile, the gates are open to shaping brands that can transcend time. Nike. Apple. The Golden Arches. That green mermaid. All enduring world-famous signatures, leveraging brand to shapeshift through category and audience demands with ease, and meet cultural and technological challenges head-on. Paradoxically, the brands I'd think of as untouchable are the ones I'd relish the chance to re-imagine, to waves of adulation, outrage, and creative punditry.”

Brand Strategy NHS Rebrand

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