How to Tell if You Need a Rebrand or Brand Refresh

Team members in a creative meeting around a desk

As a business leader, you’re no stranger to the updates and evolutions that brands go through to connect with an ever-changing market. From forming new partnerships, to revamping their visual identity, to expanding to new platforms and regions, brands are continually looking for ways to resonate with customers. 

In business terms, you probably know this as a brand refresh or a rebrand. Updating your brand can be a costly endeavor, but when done right, the pay-off can be monumental. On average, strategic businesses rebrand once every seven to 10 years, with brand refreshes happening more frequently. As you navigate the complexities of reinventing your brand, we’ve done the legwork to help you decide if you’re ready for a refresh or a rebrand.

Why strong branding matters

Whether you’re an ambitious startup or a well-established business, strong branding like iconic logos and taglines can inspire customers, capturing their hard-sought attention and wallets. From your products and services to your visuals and voice, your brand reflects your identity and values. When done right, effective branding can have a huge impact when it comes to attracting new customers, increasing loyalty, and distinguishing your business from the competition.

TL;DR What’s the difference between a brand refresh and rebrand?

If you’re struggling to keep up with market trends and consumer demands, it may be a sign that you need a brand refresh or a rebrand. Think of these terms like a home remodeling project for your brand: refreshes are a fresh paint job while rebrands are a whole home renovation.

Brand refresh examples:
  • Tweaking your logo
  • Adjusting your color palette
  • Updating your slogan
Rebrand examples:
  • New logo
  • New graphic design direction
  • New copy voice

Signs your brand identity needs a change

Are you on the fence if you need a brand refresh or rebrand? See if your brand resonates with the following prompts:

1. Your brand guidelines are inconsistent:
Are you eclectically using fonts, colors, and imagery rather than pulling from clearly defined rules and standards?

2. Your brand is outdated: Has your brand kept up with quickly evolving market and consumer demands?

3. Your brand is growing: Whether it’s new products, more services, or a bigger audience, does your brand clearly communicate who you are today?

4. Your brand is lost in the competition: With so many brands competing in the market, does your brand stand out from the crowd?

What is a brand refresh: Adding a new coat of paint

Brand changes don’t need to be drastic to be effective. A brand refresh is a less intensive process where you adjust or introduce new elements to your brand identity. Just like a new paint job, you are updating the exterior while keeping the foundations the same. Brand refreshes can range from updating your logo with new design elements or fonts, to changing your color palette, to tweaking your slogan.

“The biggest benefit of a refresh is that we don’t lose hard-earned brand recognition, instead we improve upon it.” — Lucas Carmona, VP of Creative Services at Brainrider

Brand refreshes allow you to preserve the integrity of your brand while making it more relevant to a wider audience. This update lets you adjust to current trends while showcasing that your business is modern and relevant. Brand refreshes pose less of a risk compared to the identity overhaul tied to rebranding. Successful brand refreshes come with perks including:

  • Preserving your brand’s integrity while staying relevant
  • Sparking vitality into your brand
  • Keeping up with the evolving market
  • Reaching new customers

Brand refresh success story: A farm fresh logo

Let’s look at Instacart, the grocery pick-up and delivery service whose logo can be found in retailers across North America. Their logo has evolved over the years as the brand grew. In 2012, Instacart’s logo introduced their iconic carrot graphic with the brand name in script. Over the years the carrot graphic, typography, and font color became modernized and easier to read. Most eye-catching is the revamped carrot icon whose green leaves form an arrow, symbolizing how easy it is to add products to the cart.

2012 logoInstacart's logo in 2012

2016 logoInstacart's logo in 2016

2022 logoInstacart's logo in 2022

What is a rebrand: Building from the ground up

A rebrand is a complex process that completely changes your brand identity. Rebrands are like remodeling a home, where you change the structure or layout and build up from the foundation. Rebrands can consist of major changes to a brand such as a completely new logo, graphic design, and voice.

“A full rebrand needs to be taken into account very carefully with lots of research on the audience you want to reach and the markets you want to be in.” — Lucas Carmona, VP of Creative Services at Brainrider

Rebrandings can happen when companies merge, marketing strategies drastically shift, and core values change. These transformations need to be done carefully so as not to confuse or alienate existing customers. Since rebrands are intensive, they can be phased out over several months, or a year if needed. When done successfully, a rebranding has plenty of benefits, including:

  • Revitalizing your brand
  • Establishing your brand in a new market
  • Reshaping customer perception
  • Setting your brand apart from the competition

Rebrand success story: Jumping into the Metaverse

Let’s consider Facebook’s latest transformation. In 2021, the parent company for Facebook became Meta and entered a new market. This rebranding solidified the business as a participant in the Metaverse. The transformation to Meta included a new brand name, logo, and identity shift. With this rebranding, Meta was able to expand its offering and present itself as more than a social media site, but as a futuristic technological experience.

Facebook rebranding to Meta

Rebrand or brand refresh: Which option is right for you?

Deciding if you should pursue a rebrand or brand refresh is a major decision that will impact all aspects of your business. To determine if a rebrand or brand refresh is right for you, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does your business need minor changes or a complete overhaul?
  • Are you able to commit time and resources to a lighter refresh or a more intensive rebrand?
  • Has your audience changed or do you want to increase your audience reach?
  • Have your offerings grown or changed since your inception?
  • Are your competitors rapidly adapting to market trends?
  • Have expectations within your industry changed?
  • Are your current marketing methods not working anymore?

If your business requires significant changes to stay competitive in the market and you are able to dedicate enough resources to your brand’s transformation, then rebranding is right for you. However, if you believe that your brand can benefit from smaller changes that can resonate with your customers, then a brand refresh is your best option.

How to pursue a brand refresh or rebrand:

Before you begin revamping your brand, ensure that you’re clear on its purpose. Your “why” will be your North Star and influence every decision you make. As you rework your brand keep the following in mind:

• Establish your long-term goals: Do you want to keep up with market demand, capture a certain audience, or expand into a new industry?

• Research your audience: Find out how the market views your brand and what you may need to change to stay relevant.

• Research your competitors: See who is trending in your industry and learn how you can uniquely get an edge over your competitors.

• Choose the elements you’re keeping: Consider what elements are the soul of your company and build on that equity.

• Stay flexible: Remember that you need a flexible identity that can evolve with your brand over time.

• Assess your resources: Always make sure you have enough staff, funding, and time to dedicate to your brand’s transformation.

Whether you’re ready for a targeted brand refresh or comprehensive rebranding, Brainrider can help. We offer three types of flexible resourcing models (or a mix of all three), to support your team. No matter your goals, we can create a customized resourcing plan that compliments your existing team and meets your ambitious marketing goals.

Written by Kathryn Haro, Intermediate Content Specialist at Brainrider

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