Logo swap: Can brands pull off looking like their competitors?

When the green of Subway is switched with the red of McDonalds, why is it so unnerving?

Is it simply because we have have learned to associate the colors with the brands? Or is it because colours play a vital role in shaping these brands?

A recent study by a Brazilian graphic designer Paula Rúpolo shows how changing the color scheme of major brands with their competitors makes a difference. According to Rupolo, one of the most common feedback she heard following the colour swap was that it simply "didn’t look right".

“There’s something unbelievably awkward and uncomfortable about seeing globally-familiar brand logos wearing someone else’s clothes – and everybody seems to agree,”read the blog post.

Brands spend millions of dollars for that right shade and tone of colors in their branding, and there's a good reason for it. In a conversation with Marketing, Rupolo added colours are over 50% of what sticks with  consumers/costumers once they buy from a brand.

"It's the quickest element to recognise visually, before shape, typography, etc. Choosing the right colour combination for your brand should definitely be one of the most important factors when designing it's identity but also it's important to make sure it's all coherent to your core values," Rupolo added.

A quick search online reveals why these colours were chosen in the first place but it is interesting to see how, when switched they can leave audiences confounded. Take a look at some examples:


Starbucks iconic mermaid has been kept green which is symbolic for freshness and health. The popup of colors in Dunkin' Donuts is what captures the attention of the customers. When swapped with one-dimensional green, Dunkin' Donuts loses it  pop-up feature. On the other hand, using bright orange and pink in Starbucks logo takes away the attention from the iconic mermaid. a8
The red color in the Canon logo represents love, passion, determination and energy. The use of yellow color in the Nikon logo depicts joy, depth and passion, whereas the black color represents the unparalleled quality, trust and confidence. When swapped, Canon's strong topography loses its appeal. Nikon on the other hand becomes too offsetting with the use of black on a bold red background.



The four colors used in the eBay logo; red, blue, yellow and green, depict joy, enthusiasm, creativity and energy. The use of black color in the Amazon logo depicts the company’s supremacy and grace, while the orange color represents pride and happiness of the customers. When the color scheme is swapped, eBay loses its vibrant charm. One finds it hard to put finger on exactly what goes wrong with Amazon in this process, but there is something exceedingly unappealing and disagreeable with it. Do you agree?


Oral-B has stuck with blue through out its history. Blue is associated calmness, and often suggests trust and serenity. Whereas Colgate, the worlds leading dental care product uses of red color representing health, lively activity, acceptance and dynamism. White which is used in both the logos  stands for purity, charm and elegance of the brands. But when Oral-B is written on a red palate, its bold topography along with the fierce red color become more than what a consumer can take. In contrast, the subdued blue in Colgate reduces its ability to attract attention.

Colours, in their array of hues and tones, have a tremendous influence on how a brand is perceived by its consumers. It is without question that the choice of colours plays an integral part in the identity and life-span of a brand.

Here are a few other brands' logos Rúpolo experimented with that look weird when their colours are changed:

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So what should brands keep in mind when revamping their logos? 

"There's no rule for a good rebrand except trying to respect the status it already has on the customer's mind and enhancing it towards your goals with the new visual communication. For me, the best rebrands are the ones that adjust expectations on both sides," Rúpolo told Marketing.

"From a customer point of view, you expect companies to keep up with the current styles/trends but not overdo it and become obsolete a couple months after. From the brands perspective, it needs to be a real need in terms of positioning itself in the market, if not revamps doesn't make much sense and you're just confusing the audience you already have."

A study conducted by Column Five covering 100 global brands share some common ideologies when it comes to defining their business.

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Read also:
11 brand colours and their meanings
Why colours define a brand’s logo


Written by Vaibhavee Sinha