Businesses rarely reboot their entire look, feel and message when things are going great. So, when Reebok announced that they had decided to rebrand their company with a new logo and abandon the performance athletic market in favor of the generic fitness market, it would be natural for the long knives to emerge in anticipation of felling a faltering contender in the athletic shoe and clothing market.
Reebok has been floundering for years. They gained national prominence in the 1980’s in conjunction with the aerobics craze, but were never able to leverage their early notoriety into enduring success.
In recent years Reebok’s been surpassed by upstart Under Armour, their company was acquired by rival Adidas, and despite providing the uniforms for a number of professional sports leagues, they never achieved the cachet of “cool.”
Advancing Towards Irrelevance
Name a Reebok athlete. I dare you. I can name a dozen Nike athletes, adidas athletes, Under Armour athletes and even Puma athletes, but I can’t think of a single current, relevant Reebok athlete. And in the field of performance athletics, irrelevance is death.
So, Reebok decided to abandon the performance athletic market (defined by aspiration) in favor of the fitness market (defined by routine) and rebranded themselves as… what?
Well, if we look at their logo, we can see that they intend to portray themselves as… well, what do you see?
I’ll tell you what the brilliant marketing minds at Reebok HQ in Canton, MA wanted you to see. In their words, the red triangular symbol “at it’s core is a symbol of change. Physical change, social change and cognitive change and that’s whey there are three parts of the delta.”
You saw all that, right? The whole physical social and cognitive change embodied in the delta on your gym shorts?
Of course you didn’t. And nobody else will either. Because it’s just a triangle. It means nothing because Reebok as a brand means nothing.
A Brand Without Meaning
You could have provided Reebok with Nike’s swoosh and Just Do It tagline 30 years ago and they would be just as irrelevant today because they never personified the aspirational aspects of athleticism that were embedded in the DNA of Nike, Under Armour, adidas and Puma.
The Nike swoosh is emblematic of the pinnacle of performance athletes in every sport imaginable. Adidas and Puma have provided immediately identifiable running spikes and soccer boots to world class players since the 1940’s and now outfit the world’s best tennis, basketball, baseball and Olympic athletes. And Under Armour gained prominence with pro football players and continue to outfit college and professional football players while gaining traction with baseball players and golfers. They are all world class outfitters because they’ve always been inspired by world class athletes.
But not Reebok. And it shows. While Nike was founded and run by a University of Oregon track athlete – Phil Knight – Reebok was run by Paul Fireman, a sporting goods distributor who saw a pair of Reeboks at an international trade show and negotiated to sell them in the US.
Reebok simply lacks the athletic DNA of its competitors, and no new logo can replace the passion for performance athletics and athletic achievement.