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  • Writer's pictureIan Morris

Brands That Move With The Times


Retro look with title "Brands that Move with the Times"

Some brands just nail it when it comes to staying relevant. Here, we look at some big names that have rolled with the times to hit the mark decade after decade…


What sort of reaction would you get if you rocked an Eighties’ power suit on your next Zoom call, or popped on a shell suit for your weekly supermarket shop? A few raised eyebrows? Absolutely. A polite enquiry as to where the fancy dress party is? Very possibly.


That’s because fashions change. One minute you’re proudly sporting the latest must-have, the next stuffing it into a binbag destined for the British Heart Foundation. And tastes change just as fast in the branding world. A look that once seemed cutting-edge can, over time, become as passé as a Hypercolor T-shirt that highlights your sweat marks (yes really, Google it if you were lucky enough to escape that particular trend).


But there are some brands that, either through minor tweaks or major redesigns, have regularly adapted their image to keep it fresh, relevant and, crucially, digital friendly. Here’s our pick of the bunch…


1. Audi


Audi brand evolution

The German car giant was formed in 1909 but it wasn’t until around 1932 that their famous four rings logo was born. The theory is they represent the four companies that teamed up to create Audi, but we can’t help but wonder if a certain set of Olympic rings helped inspire the design, too.

Originally, the rings contained the logos of each of the firms. These were then replaced with the words ‘Auto Union’ overlaid on the rings. And over the years, the new designs have kept coming.

After a brief experiment with 3D in 2009, Audi stripped it right back for today’s minimalist-loving and digital-first audience. The oh-so-simple logo now features four flat, interlocking rings in black or white, with no company name beside them. And you’d be hard pushed to find a person on the planet who doesn’t recognise them.


Last year, meanwhile, the car firm got plenty of attention on social when it unveiled a socially distanced logo with the rings separated. The gimmick was to highlight the importance of keeping safe in the Covid crisis.



2. Cadbury


Cadbury brand evolution

Cadbury has amassed a portfolio of different looks over the decades, most of which have revolved around two key things. Firstly, if it ain’t purple, it ain’t Cadbury. The purple and gold combo arrived in 1905 and has remained at the heart of the company’s branding.


Secondly, the curly wurly (sorry, couldn’t resist) script font. Based on the signature of John Cadbury’s grandson, it first appeared on the company’s trucks in 1921 and began being used more widely in the Fifties.


Interestingly, this famous wordmark has gone full circle. After decades of tweaking the font to give it a more contemporary, polished feel, Cadbury has just unveiled its latest version which looks much more like the flamboyant signature it once was. The idea, apparently, was to ‘put the humanity back into it’.

The firm’s famous glass-and-a-half logo, introduced in the 1920s, has also been redrawn as part of the 2020 shake-up, and this time it shows the milk being poured into a chunk of chocolate. Mmm, works for us.


3. Mastercard


Mastercard brand evolution

You know a company’s feeling pretty confident when it drops words from its branding altogether. And Mastercard has done exactly that, joining the likes of Apple, Nike and Audi in being represented by a single, simple icon.


The interlocking red and yellow circles have been part of the logo since the Sixties, but always with a prominently displayed brand name through it or below it. However, a recent study by the company showed that more than 80 per cent of people recognise the logo without the wording, hence the 2019 change.


There’s probably a bit more to the change than a new-found confidence. Clearly, the future of payments is digital, with more people than ever paying with their phones, so the less attention drawn to the word ‘card’ the better.


4. Dunkin’ Donuts


Dunkin' Donuts brand evolution

Open Kettle. Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as Dunkin’ Donuts, does it? But that’s what founder, William Rosenberg, plumped for when he opened his first shop in 1948. Within a couple of years, he’d changed the name and come up with a simple script logo.


Not a trace of the original Dunkin’ Donuts branding remains in what you see today. After the original one, there came a donut man wearing a coffee cup (naturally) and one with the word donut being dunked in a cup. In the 1980s came the striking pink and orange word logo you’ll probably recognise.


A few nip and tucks over time have helped to keep things as fresh as the coffee it churns out. But the biggest change came in 2019 when it dropped the word ‘Donuts’ from its name to simply become Dunkin’. Cleverly, it hung on to its hot pink and orange colour combo, so it wasn’t too much of a shock when the latest logo was unveiled.


5. Marks & Spencer


This isn’t just any old brand. No, this is a brand that’s had more looks than Kate Moss. Marks and Spencer has changed its branding countless times over the decades in a bid to stay contemporary and shrug off suggestions it’s out of touch.


The earliest one, designed in the Thirties, was a monogram-style M&S. And it wasn’t until the Seventies that the ultimate British brand started spelling out its full name. There followed a series of fonts and a long-standing colour-off between black and green (not to mention the lost St Michael days) and we arrive at today’s oh-so-simple M&S branding.


The contemporary typeface helps show the brand still warrants a place in today’s marketplace, while ‘Established 1884’ gives a nod to its place in our history books and our hearts.


We’re All At It


Brands are refreshing their look and feel all the time – often without you realising they’re doing it. Tripadvisor, BMW, TGI Fridays and Fisher Price are just a few of the big names who booked themselves in for a makeover last year and are now stepping into 2021 looking better than ever.


And we can add another name to that list – ours. We felt ThreeRooms’ branding had lost its shine over the years, so we put it under the microscope and came up with a fresh image that is so much more us. Check out our transformation here. No doubt about it, a company’s branding ‘speaks’ to its customers. What you don’t want yours to be saying is ‘I was designed 20 years ago and not an awful lot has changed around here since’. Keep it up-to-date and you’ll have an image that sings ‘I’m fresh, relevant, and exactly the kind of company you’d click with’. And, quite simply, there’s no better way to be top of your branding game.


Want to bring your brand up to date? Let’s chat.


A specialist Brand Agency


An award-winning branding agency, Threerooms has spent over 15 years making brands stronger and businesses more successful. Whether modernising brands with meaning or crafting effective marketing campaigns, our amazing team is focused on delivering brand transformation while providing exceptional customer service.


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