Sonic America’s Drive-In took to social media on February 3, 2020 revealing a rebrand to their retro, atomic logo and stating the cliché “new year, new me.” And, for the most part, the feedback on this facelift was negative. While a minority of people welcomed the change and embraced the new logo as more retro than its predecessor, the masses voiced their distain for the logo, that we agree, feels subpar.
The comments flooded Sonic’s social media platforms with criticisms. “What have YOU DONE SONIC,” “Change it back, this ain’t it,” “Like your food, but the new logo…not so much!!” Others even commented thinking the posts were a joke, “Seriously? C’mon this can’t be real” and “Uh oh, it’s not April 1st guys.”
When companies launch rebrands, I love to read up on the reasoning and gain insight as to why big brands decide to make the change. Sonic, unfortunately, has yet to release anything beyond “we wanted to bring something fresh into the new decade,” which makes the decision feel like they did it because they wanted to. Even though brands can get stale and staying current can help keep and attract new customers, it’s important to have a strategy behind the rebrand.
Take for example, the rebrand of Wendy’s in 2012. Wendy’s updated its logo, build outs, advertising, packaging, uniforms, restaurant signage, menu boards and digital assets. However, this change didn’t come without reason. Wendy’s CEO and CMO released statements, as well as press releases, on the companies strategy behind the rebrand and it all stemmed from their consumers. Which goes to show how important to think about the why.
When Sonic released this new logo, I couldn’t help but evaluate the elements I respected, as well as criticize the pieces that were poorly executed.
When comparing both the new and old logos as a whole, they do a great job of paying tribute to Sonic’s beginnings in the 1950s by carrying over a nostalgic, retro vibe. The marks paint a picture of classic American car hops and drive-ins. Where the logos begin to differ is in the details.
Sonic’s simplified version of its logo, that emerged in 1999, had typography integrated into the atomic shape making for a unified mark. The new mark, however, is missing the refinement of its predecessor. The font used feels like it varies from the “S” to the “C.” Going from something that is retro-futuristic to classic and simple. The kerning between the letters is also unpleasing. The “S” and the “O” appear to be floating away from the “NIC.” The shape of the mark resembles a bow tie or a dog bone and less like the iconic atom shape of 1950s graphics. I’m also disappointed by the shape that varies from rounded edges to sharp points.
Change is always welcome to brands when it comes from thoughtful research. The new direction Sonic is heading could be a good one, but currently it feels poorly executed and lacking in strategy.
Here at Fridge, we take pride in our research and strategy. If you feel your brand is in need of a facelift, contact us so we can explore if that’s the right move for your brand.
Jeremy Ballard, Director of Design