Visual Strategy Makeover: 5 Brands That Changed Their Approach


When your marketing campaign — or your brand as a whole — isn’t achieving your goals, the first factor to examine is your visual strategy. Why? Because 94% of first impressions are based on design — and if your visual content isn’t telling the right story, your audience isn’t going to stick around and listen. 

An effective visual strategy is a clearly defined plan designed to ensure that every piece of collateral in a campaign or across your organization accurately conveys your message, properly portrays your brand, and effectively connects with your audience. It’s about creating goal-oriented visual content that’s designed to succeed. 

And overhauling your visual strategy can yield huge returns. That’s why we’ve decided to take a look at 5 companies that changed their visual approach to a campaign or to their brand as a whole. Here’s why they did it, and what happened next. 

1. Old Spice 

As a company founded in 1938, Old Spice was long associated with older generations — that is, until the Old Spice Swagger campaign kicked off in 2008. Brands like Axe were appealing to younger men with promises to help them attract women, and Old Spice just looked too serious by comparison. 

A series of fun, often hilarious ads were combined with the successful, which helped customers edit similarly hilarious videos of themselves that could be shared online. The visual language developed for this campaign evoked popular retro-chic motifs, making the old new again, and thereby staying true to the company’s history.

The visual strategy reboot involved not just a change in the look, feel, and tone of their ads and online presence, but significant packaging changes as well. In this case, the entire brand needed an overhaul, or the inconsistency could drive potential new customers away. 

This approach proved to be a huge success: sales quadrupled — and we bet you don’t think it’s a brand just for older generations anymore.

2. Google

Google visual strategy

Google’s old search menu

Google visual strategy

Google’s new search menu

Just a few weeks ago, you may have noticed a visual shift in one of the Internet’s most fundamental institutions: Google Search. In mid-June, Google added icons next to each search category — from news to images to shopping — appearing on the search engine results page. 

While this was not a change in the brand’s overall visual strategy, it is a shift in one subset of the brand. A visual strategy can be unique to a particular campaign, sub-brand, product line — anything that needs to be visually distinct or that has different or more targeted goals than the brand as a whole. 

The change may seem simple enough, but it signals Google’s commitment to visual communication. Google is used by millions, even billions, of people around the world. The company needs to be able to communicate quickly and effectively with all of those people, no matter what language(s) they speak. 

The new icons accomplish this, and signal just how important it is that companies have a visual strategy in place in our globally connected world. 

3. Chobani

Yogurt company Chobani was a victim of its own success. As Robert Klara explained in a 2017 article for Adweek, Chobani “has both revolutionized and terrorized the yogurt category over the last decade by pushing Greek yogurt from a mere 1 percent of the segment to roughly half of it.” And now, all the brands were starting to look like Chobani. 

That’s why in November of that year, Chobani announced the implementation of a new visual strategy. Their new yogurt-cup designs would evoke traditional American folk art and images of the natural world. So would their ads, promotional materials, photography, and employee brochures. The idea was to communicate an overall commitment to wellness, and to show that commitment visually by returning to the natural sources of health. 

The result is that Chobani stands out in the yogurt aisle again. Have you noticed?

Chobani photography

4. Comedy Central 

The look and feel of Comedy Central has undergone an unusual evolution in the past decade. A rebrand in 2011 nixed its old logo featuring playful, exaggerated buildings and replaced it with something sleek, minimalist, and modern. But in late 2018, it announced a new change: it would combine the more playful font of the old logo with the visuals of the new one.

Comedy Central logo

Courtesy Under Consideration

Why? Comedy Central’s explanation implies that the new logo felt too “promotional,” which could turn off customers. The new logo was meant to be “bolder, more confident.”

This is what visual strategy is all about: what kind of impression you want your brand to make. But a new logo isn’t enough. Comedy Central said that this visual strategy reboot would affect “every facet of how our content is experienced,” across platforms and mediums. 

5. Apple

Apple rebrand over time

Courtesy Bopgun

This is a relatively old rebrand, but it’s one that we doubtless all remember — and for good reason. 

With their sales and market share lagging in the mid-1990s, Apple underwent one of the most successful visual strategy makeovers in history. With Steve Jobs at the helm, Apple replaced its rainbow-striped logo with an all-black apple. 

The old logo had been in use for 22 years and now felt like old news — the opposite of innovation. The new logo evoked modernity, technical evolution, and elegant simplicity. With this carefully executed visual strategy revamp, the company could visually communicate what it was really capable of. 

These are just 5 of the many, many companies that have rethought their visual strategies — either for a particular campaign, or for the whole brand — in an attempt to better achieve their goals. Does your visual strategy need a makeover? 

Erin McCoy

Author Erin McCoy

Erin McCoy is director of content marketing and public relations at Killer Visual Strategies. She earned her BA in Spanish with minors in French and Russian, and holds 2 master’s degrees from the University of Washington: an MFA in creative writing and an MA in Hispanic literature. She has won nearly 2 dozen awards in photojournalism, and has dedicated those skills to boosting Killer’s brand recognition and thought leadership in visual communication. Since Erin took on her marketing/PR role, Killer has been named a member of the Inc. 5000 for 4 years in a row; has been featured in such publications as Inc., Forbes, Mashable, and the Huffington Post; and has been invited to present at such conferences as SXSW and SMX Advanced.

More posts by Erin McCoy

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