Novelty vs. Nostalgia: Brand Refreshes Mix It Up


Iconic brands build up an abundance of equity over the years. So it’s hardly low risk when companies with high brand recognition make the leap into logo redesigns and the reimagining of visual identities. 

Any update, even the most minor, ups the ante for brands as they seek to reposition without sacrificing the recognition that they worked so hard to establish. As a result, despite the temptation to skew brand refreshes toward the promised land of the youth market, many food and beverage biggies are opting for redesigns that revisit and reinforce classic brand identities. 

Pepsi Rebrand Makes Some Noise

Take Pepsi, a multinational mega-brand built on the idea of refreshment. The beverage behemoth has unveiled the first update to its classic red, white and blue globe logo in 14 years. The tweaking of its visual identity system balances reinvention and retro, playing tribute to the classic Pepsi logo and wordmark. 

Set to the rap anthem “Get Loud For Me” by Gizzle, Pepsi’s video announcement of the rebrand coming this fall dramatizes the throwback visual identity with a powerful, pulsating modern vibe. The video places the logo and brand identity squarely in the context of today’s popular culture as a celebration of both youth and heritage.

Mauro Porcini, SVP & chief design officer of PepsiCo, stressed the refresh as a marrying of reinvention and heritage. “We designed the new brand identity to connect future generations with our brand’s heritage, marrying distinction from our history with contemporary elements to signal our bold vision for what’s to come,” he said.

Similarly, Todd Kaplan, Pepsi’s chief marketing officer, summed up the redesign’s distinctive blend of novelty and nostalgia. “Pepsi is an iconic brand that is constantly evolving with the times, as it has been a staple in pop culture and disrupted the category for the past 125 years,” he explained. “This new visual system brings out the best of the Pepsi brand’s rich heritage, while taking a giant leap forward to set it up for success in an increasingly digital world.”

Burger King "You Rule" Campaign Revisits Classic Branding

Burger King is another major brand that has repositioned itself for optimal recognition by fusing heritage with what’s happening now. The brand’s “You Rule” campaign cannily casts consumers as royalty, reinterpreting its classic “Have It Your Way” slogan as a rap rallying cry for individual choice and self-expression. The video centerpiece of the campaign is a skillful interweaving of old and new, with iconic colorways and a diverse range of dancers vibing to the rousing “You Rule” rap. The campaign has spun a series of videos, with the retro rebranding running across all marketing touch points. The message: Old school is cool, and guests from every demographic deserve to be treated like royalty.

As Burger King North America President Tom Curtis put it, “We’ve developed a simple and meaningful articulation of how Burger King celebrates our guests. It embodies our purpose, embraces individuality, and elevates ‘Have It Your Way’ — something our brand has always been known for — beyond pure product customization.” 

Hindsight is 20/20: Brands See Their Way Back to Basics

The “new” BK logo harkens back to a heritage that still has a firm hold on the public imagination. Research revealed that when asked to draw the logo from memory, most people rendered the pre-1999 version. 

“That’s the lesson,” opined Lee Rolston, chief growth officer for John Knowles Ritchie, Burger King’s creative agency. “Go back to the best version of yourself and start from there, not from where you are today. Is it evolution? Is it a revolution? No. It’s just putting the brand back into the hand that was already latent in the mind.” Ritchie cited M&Ms as another example of a back-to-basics brand refresh.  

Burger King’s retro refresh has been a revenue generator, helping to boost fourth-quarter consolidated same-store sales at Burger King by 8.4% and inspiring RBI, the brand’s parent company, to double down on the “Royal Refresh.” 

“To better capitalize on the momentum we’re seeing in the business, we’ve decided to accelerate our timeline and now expect to deploy the majority of our announced $50 million Royal Refresh spend in 2023,” said Joshua Kobza, RBI’s chief operating officer. 

At their best, brand refreshes are balancing acts. Informed by market research and inspired by cultural insights, upgrades to visual identities leverage brand legacies for a progression that doesn’t break with the past, but builds on it. 

Are you a food or beverage company looking for a brand refresh? From elevating your visual identity to executing on content and campaign development, The Food Group is passionate about brand storytelling. Contact us today.

Topics: Marketing & Communications


The Front Burner is a bi-monthly newsletter addressing the latest in food and beverage trends. This in-depth resource helps you stay current in this fast-evolving industry.

recent posts