Fontgate: Lessons for Marketers in The Daily Aus Rebrand

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In the wake of The Daily Aus’s Fontgate saga, The Big Smoke offers insights into successful rebranding, citing audience engagement and adaptability as cornerstones for a smoother transition.


Fontgate: The Daily Aus Rebrand Serves as a Cautionary Tale for Marketers

New year, new me. It’s a sentiment many of us share as we seek to reinvent ourselves in the new year. A sentiment Australian social news outlet The Daily Aus shared at the start of this year, when they announced their first rebrand since they launched over 6 years ago. 

The announcement came via a post on LinkedIn and stated, “We’ve grown up. It’s time our brand identity does too…We’re the same TDA, just with a fresh coat of paint. We’re excited to continue helping our audience make sense of the news and empowering them with information and understanding.”

But apparently not everyone got the memo. The popular news platform for young Australians faced some serious backlash on 22nd January 2024 when they posted an image on Instagram showcasing a new font for their front covers

Typography Tantrum Shakes Up The Daily Aus

The response to the sudden (and apparently unwelcome) rebrand was instant, with reactions ranging from indignant to irate. Comments included, “This redesign is not it,“ “Why did you change your fontttttt,” and “This font is horrible, unfollow.“ One follower went straight for the jugular stating, “The Daily Aus managed to find a font that is worse than Comic Sans.“

The Daily Aus posted again later that day and received another barrage of negativity and more impassioned responses, “This font hurts my young millennial eyes. Please change it back,” “This new font hurts my soul. Pls. I beg of you. Make it end,” and “Please for the love of god change your font back.”

Despite the negative backlash, The Daily Aus stayed the course, sticking with their new branding for the next two months. Unsurprisingly, consumer sentiment did not change. Almost every post they made during this time was littered with comments about the new font. It was a digital riot, a virtual protest, that made it abundantly clear that followers were not happy with the rebrand. 

Why Minor Brand Changes Can Trigger Major Reactions

It’s hard to believe that a simple font change can elicit such intense emotions from such a huge amount of people, but sometimes marketers forget about the strong connection many people have with the brands they are loyal to. Let’s not forget the calamity that ensued when Uber tried changing up their logo back in February 2016 or when in June 2023, Elon Musk switched up the name and logo of Twitter in favor of the continually controversial X.

It’s an important reminder that at their core, brands serve as symbols that evoke specific thoughts and feelings about a company, product, organization, or individual. In other words, brands are conveyors of meaning that stir up strong emotions in us humans. When marketers modify key elements of their brand, whether it be their logo, font or color scheme, they risk losing this hard-earned recognizability, turning positive associations into negative ones. 

When not done well, rebranding can be absolutely devastating for brand value. In the case of Twitter’s transformation, the X rebrand wiped out anywhere between $4 and $20 billion worth of brand value that was associated with the beloved mountain bluebird logo.

The Saga Continues: What The Daily Aus Did Next

It’s hard to not think back to the words of wise old Rafiki from The Lion King, “The past can hurt. But you can either run from it, or learn from it.” And that’s exactly what The Daily Aus did. They recognised their rebranding had backfired and started using Fontgate 2024 to their advantage. 

On 4th March, they had important news to share with their audience regarding Meta’s announcement it would be limiting news content on Instagram, and encouraged followers to subscribe to their newsletter. In order to capture attention and gain favor, they made a smart move and reverted to their old font. 

As the hostile comments were dying down, The Daily Aus rekindled their follower’s love for the old font, setting them up perfectly for their next post, which announced that “fontgate was over” and that the outlet was moving back to their original branding. The audience thanked them for listening and many followers rejoiced in the comment section: “Thank you that was stressful” and “The people have won!” Others commented on the turbulence of the rebranding ordeal, with one follower remarking, “Marketing courses will study this one day.“ And study it we shall!

Lessons from Fontgate: Navigating the Rebranding Minefield

The saga of The Daily Aus rebrand offers a treasure trove of insights for marketers and brand managers which can help steer rebranding efforts towards success and away from the pitfalls of public backlash. Rebranding is so much more than slapping on a new coat of paint. It’s a strategic move aimed at transformation and growth. When done right, rebranding can:

  • Signal Evolution – indicating that a brand is growing, adapting to new trends, or expanding its vision.
  • Reinvigorate Interest –  reigniting interest from existing customers and attracting new ones.
  • Clarify Brand Positioning – refining how a brand is perceived, ensuring it aligns with its current values and market position.

While rebranding can be an exciting opportunity for brands to reinvent themselves and grow, for established brands the journey is fraught with risk. If not done right you can: 

  • Alienate Your Customers – distancing loyal customers who feel a deep connection to the brand’s current identity.
  • Dilute Brand Equity – undermining years of brand building if the new identity fails to resonate or confuses the audience.
  • Cost Your Brand – failed rebranding can cost you not only time and money, but long-term costs in lost loyalty and brand value.

So, What’s a Brand to Do if They Want to Shake Up Their Branding?

A successful rebranding effort hinges on a delicate balance between innovation and tradition, requiring a deep understanding of one’s audience and the flexibility to adapt based on their feedback. Mastering the art of rebranding is no small feat, so to help you pull it off, here are our top tips.  

Engage and Listen to Your Audience

The cornerstone of any successful rebranding is your audience. Their engagement, feedback and loyalty are invaluable, making it crucial for brands to:

  • Engage in Dialogue – Leverage social media and other platforms not merely as announcement boards but as forums for genuine conversation and engagement with your audience.
  • Conduct Market Research – Dive deep into understanding the sentiments, preferences, and expectations of your audience before making any significant changes.
  • Be Responsive – Demonstrate a genuine appreciation for customer feedback by being open to making adjustments. This responsiveness shows that the brand values its community’s input.

Facilitate a Smooth Transition

The process of rebranding should be approached with care, incorporating strategies that slowly establish the new concepts:

  • Gradual Introduction – Introduce new brand elements progressively to help your audience adjust to the changes without feeling overwhelmed.
  • Consistent Communication – Maintain open lines of communication throughout the rebranding process. Explain the reasons behind changes and involve your audience in the journey, making them feel a part of the evolution.
  • Alignment with Brand Values – Ensure rebranding efforts align with the core values and essence of your brand. This alignment helps preserve the brand’s integrity and maintains trust with your audience.

Embrace Adaptability

The ability to adapt is perhaps the most critical aspect of rebranding, especially in the face of audience backlash. Brands should strive to be:

  • Flexible – Have the courage to backtrack or compromise on decisions if they’re not meeting the desired objectives, or are met with resistance from your audience.
  • Resilient – Be prepared to face initial backlash with a constructive mindset, using it as an opportunity to gather insights and strengthen the brand’s relationship with its audience.
  • Innovative – View setbacks not as failures but as opportunities for innovation. Use the feedback as a springboard for creative solutions that better align with your audience’s expectations.

Considering a Rebrand? 

The Big Smoke team stands ready to guide you through the rebranding process, ensuring your brand’s revamp resonates with your audience, while supporting the evolution of your brand. With our help you can make your rebrand memorable for all the right reasons.

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