Any time a brand redesigns its identity, there are huge risks that the public will reject the new look. It's happened to everyone from Gap to Tropicana in the past.
Southwest Airlines has just unveiled their new branding, and it's a huge departure from the old. The new identity includes new paint jobs for their planes, a new logo, and a completely revamped website. It's been met with mixed reviews on Twitter. Some people love the new site and hate the new logo; some people love the new logo but hate the new site; others love or hate everything about it.
One thing that keeps coming up in the comments is the retro look of the new identity. The color scheme is similar to the old one, keeping the main red, blue, and yellow hues.
One big addition is a tri-color heart on the underside of the plane. The heart is meant to symbolize the company's values, and their commitment to remain true to those values as they move forward.
Along with the new heart comes a new tagline on their website: "Without a Heart, it's just a machine."
One distinction here is that they're avoiding the term "rebranding", and instead are calling it a "bold new look." In other words, they don't want to give the impression that they're doing this to distance themselves from the company's history. It sets them apart from many of the other big corporate rebrandings we've seen in recent years.
From a business perspective, any time a company makes a major shift in their visuals, they're taking a risk. In this case, sticking with the primary color palette that they've used for years helps keep the new design grounded in the old (and helps reinforce the idea that they're not trying to distance themselves from their roots).
Redesigning everything all at once is a bold move, too. But it also tends to work better than slowly rolling out changes. It looks like more of a deliberate, confident move than spoon-feeding little changes to their customers in hopes they'll approve.
The heart logo is something that could work in the company's favor as long as they really do continue to operate by their core values. But, any deviation from that, or any scandal in the future, could be intensified by this particular branding choice. Consumers have proven time and time again that they will very quickly abandon any company that tries to whitewash their corporate misdeeds, particularly through their branding.