This article was written with the assistance of AI. It has been edited and fact-checked by humans.
2023 was a rollercoaster in the world of branding, marketing, and design—a year that saw giants stumble and new trends emerge, shaping the branding landscape in unexpected ways. As we reflect on the past year, here are nine of the biggest, most consequential stories, themes, and pieces of branding news from 2023.
1. The fall of Twitter
Elon Musk’s acquisition and rebranding of Twitter into ‘X’ marked a dramatic shift in the social media landscape. The platform, once a hub for real-time discussions and breaking news, faced a steep decline in usage and ad revenue. Musk’s rebranding efforts, while bold, did not resonate with the platform’s core user base, leading to a substantial exodus. In the wake of Twitter’s downfall, Meta seized the opportunity to launch Threads, a direct competitor, capitalizing on the gap left in the market.
2. Decursivication: a logo revolution
2023 witnessed a shift away from script logos—what Rob Meyerson termed “decursivication.” Brands like Johnson & Johnson and Eddie Bauer redesigned their logos to feature sans serif type, partly influenced by the theory that younger generations struggle with reading cursive. These changes may also reflect a broader movement toward more digital-friendly, minimalist branding that resonates with younger demographics.
3. AI in branding: a mixed bag
Adobe’s Generative Fill and OpenAI’s ChatGPT have revolutionized branding, albeit in different ways. Adobe impressed with its innovative approach to design, whereas ChatGPT’s foray into generating copy received mixed reviews, often criticized for its lackluster outputs. Nonetheless, AI’s role in branding is only set to grow, presenting both challenges and opportunities.
4. Soda rebrands: a fizzy affair
The beverage industry saw a flurry of rebranding activity. Market leaders like Pepsi, 7Up, and Fanta unveiled new brand identities, signaling a shift in their marketing strategies. Meanwhile, Sierra Mist was discontinued, replaced by the introduction of Starry, a move that reflects the evolving consumer preferences toward new and diverse flavors.
5. Woke backlash: a branding tightrope
2023 also highlighted the challenges brands face in an increasingly politically polarized landscape, particularly in the United States. M&M’s faced backlash for its less “sexy” spokescandies, and Bud Light drew the ire of right-wing social media personalities with a transgender spokesperson. These incidents underscore the delicate balance brands must maintain in their marketing and branding efforts.
6. Barbie: pink, pop, and promotion
The Barbie movie set a new benchmark for Hollywood marketing campaigns. Its aggressive, pink-themed promotional strategy, coupled with numerous brand collaborations, created a significant buzz, redefining movie marketing.
7. Unexpected collabs
In addition to Barbie, 2023 saw some of the most unlikely yet intriguing brand collaborations. Heinz paired with Absolut and Lick, McDonald’s with Crocs, and Nike with Tiffany & Co., showcasing a trend towards innovative and unexpected brand partnerships. These collaborations broke conventional marketing norms, creating unique consumer experiences.
8. Distinctiveness vs. differentiation debate
The age-old debate of distinctiveness versus differentiation in branding continued to rage in 2023. Thought leaders like Mark Ritson and Jenni Romaniuk brought new insights to the discussion through webinars and podcasts, including an appearance on JUST Branding with Jacob Cass and Matt Davies. This debate remains central to the branding discourse, highlighting the evolving nature of brand strategy.
9. A year of insightful logo/design books
2023 was a remarkable year for literature in the branding and design space. Allan Peters wrote Logos that Last: How to Create Iconic Visual Branding, James Martin published Made by James: The Honest Guide to Creativity and Logo Design, and Ian Paget released Make a Living Designing Logos. David Airey has a new book coming soon: Identity Designed: The Process: Research, Strategy, Design, Implementation. Later this month we’ll see the sixth edition of Alina Wheeler’s Designing Brand Identity—this time with Rob Meyerson as co-author. These publications promise to deepen the industry’s understanding of branding and design principles.
As we look back at the big branding news from 2023, it’s clear that the branding world is in a state of flux, with new trends and challenges emerging. From the downfall of established platforms to the rise of AI in branding, the year has been a testament to the dynamic nature of this field. As we step into 2024, these stories not only reflect the past but also hint at the trajectory of branding and marketing in the years to come.